Qantas almost ran a daily Boeing 787 from Sydney to London via Perth

In the early days of COVID-19, Qantas' flagship A380 to London via Singapore was set to become a non-stop Dreamliner from Perth.

By David Flynn, December 30 2020
Qantas almost ran a daily Boeing 787 from Sydney to London via Perth

Double-daily Qantas Boeing 787-9 flights between Perth and London? The airline's flagship QF1 'Kangaroo Route' service moving from an Airbus A380 superjumbo to a Dreamliner?

It almost happened – in fact, it was due to start on April 20 – before the coronavirus moved from an Asian epidemic to a global pandemic, grounding all international Qantas flights in the process.

And with all of Qantas' Airbus A380s mothballed until at least late 2023, the aborted Sydney-Perth-London Boeing 787 service might still make a return in years to come.

In looking back at how this played out, it's also a reminder of how quickly COVID-19 changed the aviation landscape.

Countdown to a shutdown

On February 1, Qantas joined a dozen other airlines in suspending all flights to mainland China in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline said its decision "follows entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the United States, which impact the movement of crew who work across the Qantas International network."

"These entry restrictions pose significant logistical challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland China services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights."

Less than three weeks later, on February 20, Qantas announced plans to reduce capacity to Singapore and Hong Kong – including downgrading its Melbourne-Singapore Airbus A380 service to a Boeing 787, and later to an Airbus A330 – as the growing coronavirus stormcloud sapped travel demand across Asia.

By March 10 the coronavirus had stepped onto the global stage, and Qantas moved to ground two-thirds of its flagship Airbus A380 fleet.

This included dropping the Sydney-Singapore-London 'Kangaroo Route' for a daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Sydney to London via Perth.

“In the past fortnight we’ve seen a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce remarked at the time.

Reshaping and rerouting QF1

April 20 was to see Qantas' flagship QF1/QF2 service re-routed via Perth, to run alongside the QF9/QF10 Melbourne-Perth-London service – resulting in twice-daily Perth-London flights on the red-tailed Dreamliner.

(With fewer passengers flying to Singapore, and none flying through Singapore to London or back due to the rerouting of QF1/QF2 via Perth, Qantas also said it would temporarily pull down the shutters on its Singapore first class lounge, which had opened just five months before.)

Of course, the ink was barely dry on that plan when one week later, on March 19, Qantas announced the suspension of all international flights and the Federal Government introduced mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travellers arriving from overseas.

The ban on Australians headed overseas travel has recently been extended to March 2021 – which will mark a full 12 months since the country's borders where slammed shut in the face of COVID-19.

Also read: Supersonic dreams – how Qantas almost flew the Concorde


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


09 May 2020

Total posts 427

Not sure what is the point about this “almost happened” article, considering the war between Qantas and Perth airport on landing fees such that it took the pandemic shutdown to force both parties to resolve the dispute in early May, which is about 3 weeks after the regular 2- sunrise flights were supposed to start. 

I would have doubted the airport would let this plan go ahead smoothly since QF stopped paying their fees from Feb 1 (until it was resolved in May)

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 316

I think the point is that this did almost happen, but everything changed so quickly that it slipped by people, and that as the article says this could very well return if there's sufficient demand before the A380s come back. I don't think we will see the first A380s return until 2024 so if we see QF1 restart as a Boeing 787 all depends on how much demand there is for AU-UK travel in 2022-2023.


09 May 2020

Total posts 427

Considering the landing fees were in dispute since 2018 with no resolution in sight before the pandemic hits, I was frankly surprised AJ was spruiking this project so hard with his reputation on the line such that the airport could had held the entire project to ransom with good reasons too since QF “ unilaterally given itself a 100 per cent rent waiver, with no negotiation, on all 39 leases at Perth Airport in breach of their contractual obligation” involving more than 10,000 flights since Feb 1 (according to PerthNow source).

I was thinking in early March that AJ may end up with egg on his face before end of Apr.

think Qantas SYD/PER/LHR B787 flights will happen in 2021.

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24 Jan 2018

Total posts 498

Even as a Virgin Platinum flier, I hope you're right, that would be great.  

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

As much as I'd like QF to bring back MEL-PER-LHR first, unless there's major COVID problems in SYD, surely when they start flying to London again they'll start with SYD-PER-LHR then add MEL-PER-LHR once there's sufficient demand for two daily services.

At this point one would think regular QF services to London are at least about 12 months away.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 370

Does it make much of difference really which comes first? If you are in Melbourne and Sydney starts first, you just get yourself a Melbourne to Perth flight and then jump on the flight to London. I would be very surprised if there wasn't a Melbourne flight that connected seamlessly 

There's also no reason that QF1 couldn't change to a Boeing 787 but still fly via Singapore. The only reason Singapore was dropped in this scheme was due to COVID being at the time seen as an Asian thing. Travel to Singapore will re-open before the UK so Qantas could reinstate QF1 but on the 787.

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

The other way of looking at it is that the primary reason QF1 didn't go via PER is that the A380 couldn't do the PER-LHR leg with sufficient passenger and cargo load. Using the 787 QF can offer flights that don't stop over in any country on the way.

Even once the pandemic is over the risk of a new pandemic will mean that some passengers will want to stop off in as few countries as possible on the way to their destination.

So flying both flights via PER may give QANTAS a competitive edge.

Without LHR bound traffic QF could reduce capacity to SIN to an appropriate combination of A330 and 787.

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15 Jan 2013

Total posts 363

if i was to go to london again.going through perth flying from adelaide would be my first time is practically identical to the old qf81/qf9 and in the other direction qf10/qf82 via singapore.afternoon departure and home the next day 90 minutes before midnight returning,over would be lunchtime departure and with a decent transit in england next day just after 5am.i don't need asian stopovers to be honest.the best part would be no dreaded 5am or 6am arrival in australia.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1352

This is good for Canberra as the Perth transfer meant that at least in one direction (coming back) it was a one stop connection. For it to one stop each way would require twice daily Canberra Perth which ain’t gunna happen.

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 46

struggling to understand the point of this article. thought there might have been more in it than just an 'almost'. 

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