Qantas is digging in for the long haul as its flagship superjumbos sit on the tarmac, being pored over by technical engineers trying to find the cause of the catastrophic mid-air engine failure that saw engine rotors careering into the wing and fuel tanks.
Qantas today dropped all A380 aircraft from its ongoing flight schedule, amid an international airworthy directive for all Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines to be closely inspected.
“Qantas' A380 aircraft will not return to service until there is complete certainty that the fleet can operate safely,” the airline said.
In the past week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce had been quoting timeframes of “at least 72 hours” before A380s would start flying again. Now, it appears the airline is prepared for its flagship aircraft to sit on the tarmac for some time, with no ETA for return to service being stated.
The airline said it would be able to accommodate all ticketed customers on all international routes in coming weeks using alternative aircraft, “regardless of when A380 aircraft re-enter service.”
“This contingency schedule has been designed to provide certainty for customers planning to travel in the near future,” it said in a statement.
Qantas is using its entire fleet of 250 aircraft across both domestic and international routes to fill the gap left by its six grounded A380 superjumbos.
This means a series of aircraft swaps as Qantas juggles its fleet to increase capacity on long-haul routes. For example, the Boeing 747s which usually fly between Sydney and Narita are being replaced by Airbus A330s in order to free up the jumbos for deployment on A380 routes.
Travel between Sydney to Hong Kong will also be on Airbus A330s for now, rather than Boeing 747s.
In turn, A330s have been replaced by smaller Boeing 767s on Perth to Singapore services.
Qantas also said “minor changes have been made to aircraft operating certain domestic services in order to provide alternate capacity on the Qantas international network.”
The European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) today issued an Airworthiness Directive for all Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, which probably explains why Lufthansa chose to swap an engine on one of its A380s last night, despite saying it hadn’t found any major problems.