Twelve Qantas superjumbos sit idle in California's arid Mojave Desert, but airline CEO Alan Joyce expects they'll all return to the skies by 2024.
"We think we will reactivate all of the A380s" Joyce said at today's online CAPA Live forum, flying against rumours that only six – those which have already been upgraded with new seats and inflight lounges – would wing their way back to Australia.
As a matter of when rather than if, the superjumbo's second act will hinge on demand, and Joyce reiterates that he doesn't see demand for international travel reaching 2019 levels "until 2024."
"Now if demand comes back earlier, we can reactivate the A380s within three to six months, " Joyce clarified, opening the possibility that some popular routes could bounce back ahead of time depending on a melange of factors such as vaccination rates – both within Australia and overseas – and how international travel resumes.
"It could open up a bubble by bubble, market by market," he said.
A premium boost to the bottom line
In the meantime, the Boeing 787 will continue to serve as Qantas' flagship, and deliver a financial assist through the relatively large premium cabin – 42 seats in business class and 28 in premium economy, out of a total of 236 seats.
"We have luckily enough been replacing the bigger aircraft with the 787... and the 787 is such a good aircraft. It can replace entire A380s, 747s in terms of range (and) costs are even better than an A380."
Qantas' October 31 restart schedule for international travel even sees the Boeing 787 Dreamliner taking over from the A380 on the 'kangaroo route' from Sydney to London via Singapore, which would run alongside the Perth-London Boeing 787 service.
"At the end of October, if the international borders were to open up, we could start 22 of the 25 destinations we have pre-COVID with smaller aircraft."
The Sydney-Singapore leg of the daily QF1 Dreamliner service to London will be complemented by a stand-alone Sydney-Singapore flight, which like most of Qantas' other Asian services will be now flown by an Airbus A330.