Facing a long wait for international travel to return, let alone rebound to pre-Covid levels, Qantas will next month begin sending most of its Boeing 787-9 jets to a storage facility at the edge of California's Mojave Desert.
The modern, fuel-efficient Dreamliners featured on routes to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London via Perth, as well as stints to Hong Kong, and were set to take on Brisbane-Chicago before the pandemic took hold.
They were also the workhorse of choice for a series of rescue and repatriation flights across April and May to bring home Australians stranded overseas as international travel dried up.
But from September, Qantas says most of the 11-strong Boeing 787 fleet will make their way to the Victorville's Southern California Logistics Airport, where they'll join the Qantas Airbus A380s, and over 200 other jets from airlines around the world in waiting out the worst of the travel-crippling storm.
"From September, most of the (Boeing 787) fleet will be positioned up to Victorville in the USA," a Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Executive Traveller.
"In June we said around 100 of our aircraft would be stored for up to 12 months, some for longer, and our 787 fleet is part of that."
"The humidity in California is much lower than in Australia, so it’s much better for long-term storage of aircraft – the same reason why we’ve moved our A380s there. All of the aircraft will be looked after by our Los Angeles-based engineering team."
Qantas will keep some Dreamliners in Australia "as contingency aircraft," the spokesperson added.
"We’ve said we expect the 787s to be the first aircraft to return to service when long-haul international travel returns, so the rest will come back to Australia when the time is right."
But that time could be a long time away, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has recently warned.
"We think international will take a long time – nothing this next financial year – and next July, we may start to see some international services and that will only get us to 50% the following year."
Joyce doesn't expect the Qantas' international network to restart "in any real size from July next year", with those flights led by the smaller Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 jets "to establish the network as fast as possible."
Over the next few years, the Boeing 787-9 will become Qantas' international workhorse "to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London and Asia," he said.
Qantas has also secured loans worth $1.6 billion against ten Dreamliners to boost its liquidity while it also embarks on a three-year 'rightsize, restructure and recapitalise' plan tasked with reducing costs by $15bn.
The International Air Transport Association believes it will take until 2024 for global air traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels – a year later than previously projected.