Qantas to send most of its Boeing 787s to the desert for storage

With international flights perhaps a year away, the Dreamliners will be mothballed alongside Qantas' Airbus A380.

By David Flynn , August 7 2020
Qantas to send most of its Boeing 787s to the desert for storage

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.

Most Qantas Boeing 787s are headed into hibernation, and might not return for at least one year.
Most Qantas Boeing 787s are headed into hibernation, and might not return for at least one year.

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."

The superjumbos are in for an extended sleep.
The superjumbos are in for an extended sleep.

Read more: How Qantas will hibernate its Airbus A380 for the next three years

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."

Alan Joyce says the Boeing 787s will become Qantas' new flagship and "international workhorse".
Alan Joyce says the Boeing 787s will become Qantas' new flagship and "international workhorse".

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.

Also read: Coronavirus casualty – Qantas farewells the iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet

David

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 446

Can pilots remain current with just simulator training or do they need to be on real aircraft sometimes?

30 Jun 2020

Total posts 6

Technically pilots can stay current on the simulator only. In these COVID times the regulators (CASA, CAA, CAD, FAA) will make a lot of concessions to allow airlines to reintroduce services as fast as possible but that will only apply to pilots who haven't been laid off or terminated, in other words, only those pilots who remain within the Check and Training system.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 109

We are we sending our jets to California, yet airlines like SIA are sending their jets to A place near Alice Springs.... Why would we do that... 2hr flight to Alice or 14hrs to the USA... hmm am i missing something>?

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 281

Part of the reason for sending the aircraft to California is that Qantas already has a team of maintenance engineers and equipment at LAX, whereas they have no-one at Alice Springs.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 109

I'm quite sure if Qantas asked some of their Aussie engineers to move to Alice for a while they would jump at that rather then being unemployed

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 171

But then they'd be liable to transfer them, housing etc, relocation costs...

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 140

Was just going to comment on that - maybe QF gets better bonuses/incentives t osend them t oCalifornia rather than just flying them to Alice Springs

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 5

I think Victorville is a better facility for long-term storage, which is what Qantas has in mind.

Alice Springs has far less services, so is better suited for shorter term storage, which is probably what Singapore has in mind.

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 42

Because the can use the cheaper LA based maintenance team to look after the aircraft.

30 Jun 2020

Total posts 6

SIA doesn't spend any money on their jets, they turn them over. Alice Springs is full, Victorville has room for a few hundred more.

05 Mar 2012

Total posts 3

Is this announcement inclusive of the JQ Dreamliners to go into long term storage as well?

23 Jul 2018

Total posts 8

Well that's a grim outlook for a Friday afternoon. Will our points still be valid by then or are they going into desert storage too ?

29 Jan 2016

Total posts 23

How will they get the pilots home ??

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 106

Probably drive back to LAX, it's about two hours, and then fly at industry rates with whatever airline Qantas books. United is supposed to be restarting LAX-SYD soon, and Delta also has LAX-SYD I think?

10 Apr 2016

Total posts 45

maybe the jump seat on one of their freighters

08 Jul 2020

Total posts 6

For long term storage it makes sense, as whilst temperatures are similar, Alica springs and higher average rain fall and humidity. Whereas SIA are still hopeful of a 6-12month turn around. Also this is just a guess, but their aircraft in Singapore would experience much worse humidity in Singapore, so Alice springs is a big improvement.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 22

The rate Qantas is going they might as well just pack it in and shut down. If Joyce doesnt have the heart for it he should hand over the reigns to someone who will push through.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

28 Feb 2019

Total posts 8

So are you suggesting that QF should pack it in and Joyce doesn't has the hear to do that or that Joyce doesnt have the heart to hang around for the long term? Your comments seem contradictory.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 22

Shera, at the rate Qantas is moth balling planes and continually pushing back international start dates ( nothing internationally for 12 months and then maybe 50% from there ) sends a negative message to the public and Alan Joyce is the one quoting it. If you turn off the lights people forget about you and try other businesses instead. My statement was that if Joyce doesnt have the heart or determination to get those planes in the air, whenever and however possible then Joyce needs to move over and let someone else do it.

Think of the pilots / ground crews and staff that he is mothballing as well as the planes. Do you think they will all sit around for 18 months waiting to see if Alan is still scratching his head and wondering about what could be. Im sure not.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 578

I am 100% sure Qantas has done the suns and for the time being believes it is cheaper and better long term to store planes rather than fly them. If there was any chance of making even the slightest amount of money from flying they would not hesitate to do so.

As for messaging their messaging has been strong and clear for months and reflects the view of most in this world that international air traffic is in deep do do for the next few years.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2017

Total posts 6

And the Federal Government has also made it clear there won't be any international travel for quite some while. I would assume that if there is a sudden upturn in international travel after we are allowed to travel then the planes will come back. I also think that most of the airlines that will come back to Australia first will have significant government backing (ie Middle Eastern, SIA, Chinese) who also have much lower overhead costs. There might even be more sharing of services for traditional opposition (like QantasLink and Rex on some regional services) - who knows what will happen in these times.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

Brett you need passengers in planes and with 50 per flight it doesn't cut it. You will note it seems the A333s are getting a good work out on cargo. They would have done the sums on cabin crew rosters to see if it was economic to bring 50 back per flight but with Aussies stopped from leaving it probably doesn't add up. When things ease towards the end of the year the A333s may be taking some people to Asia. Beyond that mid next year is my bet. A more reliable and faster test will be required for that and that will be here before a vaccine.

29 Aug 2020

Total posts 1

Nonsense. Aussies are allowed to leave if they have an acceptable reason to do so.  My sister flew to London a month ago.

16 Jun 2020

Total posts 9

Let's face it AJ's only approach to running an airline is cost cutting as apposed to new approaches and of course his renumerwtion package, I'm sure that by jawboning the short term outlook for QF he can drive the share price up when international travel changes..

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 22

AJW, you sound like a Qantas shareholder flying the flag. Share prices will be worth nothing if Qantas doesnt figure out a way to make money.

Patrickk, American airlines, the largest in the world doesnt leave empty seats, pack em in as per normal and yes Im sure cargo is a great top up. Its all about keeping things ready to roll as the government and consumers warm up to the idea. Moth balling your fleet says I give up and Im going on a long holiday

.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 578

I'm sure the issue of how to make money is at the top of the issues at Qantas HQ in Mascot. What I am also sure about is they have done their sums and they are loosing a lot less parking then they would by attempting to fly them.

As for your comments re American airlines, one major difference between Australia and the US is for the most part all our state borders are closed to each other. Yeah I know some states can travel between others but for all purposes it is too much of a pain in the back side. So if you think Qantas should be emulating American then where do you suppose the customers are coming from and going to to be able to pack em in? Oh and the other difference US to Australia is at least here we are taking the health risks of travel in particular a lot more seriously.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

Brett they are packing them in where they can on the allowable domestic flights. There are no international flights to pack them in on beyond the allowable 50 seats coming in and even less going out.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1256

"Think of the pilots / ground crews and staff that he is mothballing as well as the planes. Do you think they will all sit around for 18 months waiting to see if Alan is still scratching his head and wondering about what could be. Im sure not."

I have great sympathy for crews... but you seem to think they can just walk down the road and pick up another aviation job. Unfortunately, airlines are reducing staff. It is not an employee's market in aviation at the moment. Qantas will be happy if some staff retire or find alternative work, because they will likely have an excess staff levels for the foreseeable future.

"Share prices will be worth nothing if Qantas doesnt figure out a way to make money."

Share price will be worth nothing if they fly empty planes around just to send a message to consumers.

"American airlines, the largest in the world doesnt leave empty seats, pack em in as per normal and yes Im sure cargo is a great top up."

American Airlines is not operating in a market where their Government has blocked it's citizens from international travel and limited inbound pax numbers. Domestically, US airlines have and it appears, are likely to continue to receive specific financial support from the US Government.

"Its all about keeping things ready to roll as the government and consumers warm up to the idea."

You know something the rest of us don't? It doesn't even look like we will even have NZ travel going soon, let alone anything that requires a widebody.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 22

Some reasonable points in those last comments, but here is the difference between the US aproach and Australia. One is working on how to crank things up despite the issues and the other trying to hide until its all over.

Economics will force a reopening, Australia was just ebbing along before the virus so isnt in a position to sit out out for the next 12 months or longer.

I stand by my last sentence and Hutch you can copy it againg if you like. Its all about keeping things ready to roll as the government and consumers warm up to the idea. Moth balling your fleet says I give up and Im going on a long holiday

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1256

"but here is the difference between the US aproach and Australia. One is working on how to crank things up despite the issues and the other trying to hide until its all over."

And your point is what? Qantas is an Australian airline operating in the market environment provided by government/s. Qantas cannot "crank up" Australia... Its a transportation company. The operating environment here simply does induce demand levels that require widebody planes (and I'm doubtful the majority of the population actually want things to crank up US style).

"I stand by my last sentence and Hutch you can copy it againg if you like".

I'm truly pleased for you and grateful for your permission.

"Its all about keeping things ready to roll as the government and consumers warm up to the idea. Moth balling your fleet says I give up and Im going on a long holiday"

You must know governments and consumers, because to date, governments and consumers seem pretty cool on international travel. They may indeed warm to the idea... Do you know when?

"Mothballing the fleet" says this is best way to conserve cash. But you are right, they are going on a long holiday... But isn't that the point, you come back from holidays.


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