Qantas' Brisbane flyers headed stateside are used to stepping onto a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but from early 2022 they'll be likely to see the smaller Airbus A330 taking them to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
It's a long journey for what's usually more of a mid-range jet typically flown to Asia and back, but Qantas is playing every card in its deck – and rolling out every jet in its fleet – to ramp up the return of international flights from December 2021.
That includes pulling a few cards from up its sleeve in order to free up the Boeing 787s needed to backfill on Airbus A380 routes, with only five superjumbos expected to return by the end of 2022 on routes to Singapore, London and Los Angeles.
As part of the fleet shuffle as the dormant aircraft are reactivated and destinations reopen, Qantas says it will extend the range of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft "to operate some trans-Pacific routes such as Brisbane-Los Angeles and Brisbane-San Francisco."
"This involves some technical changes that are now being finalised with Airbus."
The Qantas A330s are fitted with an almost-identical business class seat as the Boeing 787-9s, although the privacy panel between the paired middle seats of the A330 is fixed in place, whereas the Dreamliner's updated model sees this panel able to be retracted for added sociability when travelling with a partner.
However, while the Boeing 787s feature a small cabin of 28 premium economy seats, the A330s have only two classes – business and economy.
The A330 also lacks several of the modern design traits of the Boeing 787 which are well-suited to longer flights, such as a lower effective cabin altitude and higher humidity to help mitigate the effects of jet lag.
At the time of writing Qantas has cited only Brisbane for these long-range A330 flights, with the substantially larger markets of Sydney and Melbourne set to see the Boeing 787-9 as the new trans-Pacific flagship on most flights, until the Airbus A380 returns to Sydney-Los Angeles from July 2022.
Over the coming 12 months Qantas will also finally take delivery of three extra Boeing 787-9s, which have been in storage with Boeing during the pandemic, to swell its Dreamliner fleet to 14 "to operate additional flights to key markets as demand increases."
This will hopefully mean that our US-bound Brisbane readers will once again see the Boeing 787-9 at their departure gate.