Tue 23 Nov -- Qantas announces it will resume flying the A380, but under different conditions.
In a hastily convened press conference at Qantas' Mascot headquarters, CEO Alan Joyce answered our questions about the A380 explosion.
Qantas says it has removed Rolls-Royce engines where oil leaks were detected from its A380s and will fit entirely new ones as a safety measure. “We will be replacing them with new engines – one of them in Sydney has a new engine on the aircraft, and we’ll be doing that with the one in LA as well," Joyce said.
However, Qantas will not consider switching the engines on its A380 fleet to the other competing engine also qualified for use on A380s – the Engine Alliance GP7200.
Joyce also disclosed that Qantas had been running its engines at a higher power than Singapore Airlines on its A380s, but said this was a capability approved by the engine manufacturer. "The difference between the engines are actually the power rating of the engines, which is not actually a physical difference in the engines, it's what the engine manufacturer has sold to the airlines to allow them to operate at higher levels of power. So ours is a slightly higher level of power than Singapore and Lufthansa.
"One of the things we are looking at is whether the higher level of power has contributed to this. However, the aircraft and the engine are certified to work at those higher levels of power. So this is a problem with the engine not meeting its design criteria if that is the case."
Australian Business Traveller to Alan Joyce: “Given aircraft engines go through thousands of hours of design engineering, if it is a design flaw, does Qantas think the design can be remodelled quickly and safely?”
Alan Joyce: “Well, part of us working with Rolls-Royce is to, as we said, narrow this down to what could be causing it. There’s a range of issues that could be causing this – it could be issues around some of the materials and the performance of the materials, it could be the operating conditions around how the aircraft has been operating. It’s too early for us to judge what that issue is and how long it will take for that issue to be repaired or fixed. We are working very closely with Rolls-Royce to get a speedy recovery of this, but I won’t comment on how long that will take until we get this investigation completed.
Australian Business Traveller: “Qantas currently has six A380s, all fitted with the Rolls-Royce engines, but you have 14 more on order. Is Qantas considering having any of those fitted with the Engine Alliance powerplants, or will you stay with the Rolls-Royce?”
Alan Joyce: “No, we’re working with Rolls-Royce to ensure that we have an appropriate fix to this issue. This is our focus. Our team, Airbus and the Rolls-Royce team are working around the clock in order to ensure that and we are not looking at any other alternatives. Our focus is to ensure we fix this problem.”
Australian Business Traveller: “So what about the next 14 Airbuses – you’re going to go with Rolls-Royce engines?”
Alan Joyce: “We are focusing in on this problem and we don’t have any intention to change our plans. We believe that we can work with Rolls and Airbus to fix this issue and that is the focus of the organisation.”
Joyce also said he expected operations will be recovered, with significant disruptions to passengers ceasing within the next 24 hours. Qantas had looked at booking customers onto flights with other airlines, he said, but he claimed all the flights with other airlines were full. Qantas is moving some passengers using a British Airways Boeing 777.
The focus of the investigation has been narrowed to the possibility of an oil leakage in the relevant turbine area. However, investigations on other areas of the engine are continuing in order to rule out other potential issues.
“We have discovered oil leaks on three engines in three different aircraft; they were beyond normal tolerances. They are all new engines on a new aircraft type; the engines are not performing as you would expect.”
Inspections are taking place in Sydney and Los Angeles, where Qantas’ damaged A380 is stranded.
Qantas says it will not return its A380 fleet to service until it is confident the issues have been identified and resolved. At this stage Qantas does not expect to operate the A380 fleet for at least another 72 hours.
Joyce closed the press conference by saying he had spoken to passengers who had told him they would only fly Qantas again in the future, because of the way the airline had handled the mid-air crisis and the follow-up.
He also said Qantas was evaluating what compensation it would provide to passengers -- but said there would be different amounts for passengers on the A380 which had the uncontained engine explosion, and the 747 flight that had a contained engine explosion. He said all passengers who were stranded in Los Angeles were being put up in five star hotels, "not bed and breakfasts".