While the rest of the world’s airlines throw their superjumbos in a pile, glug them with petrol, and flick a zippo (metaphorically), Qantas is winging it in the other direction.
As Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, “Qantas Airways Ltd. expects all of its Airbus SE A380s to return to the skies, a signal of confidence that demand for global air travel will recover and make the superjumbo viable again.”
“We think we will reactivate all of the A380s. We spent a lot of money on them,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at a Centre for Aviation virtual conference on Wednesday. “Once demand is there, they’re going to be good aircraft.”
This comes after Qantas grounded all 12 of its A380s in June 2020, as the pandemic pulled the rug out from international travel.
Many other airlines around the world have been taking this moment to reshape their fleets, and begun phasing out the big boy.
The likes of Etihad, Lufthansa, Air France and Singapore airlines have all started reducing their reliance on the jet.
As The Points Guy reported in March, “The A380 has fallen from grace as airlines have opted to instead fly more efficient twin-engine jets like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.”
“Things got so dire that last year that Airbus announced it would be permanently ending production of the A380. At the moment every A380 in the world is grounded, with the exception of those operated by China Southern Airlines.”
Australia is an isolated continent, however, and many of Qantas’ grand plans for the future still involve the A380. Perhaps linked to this is that the A380 is one of the most popular jets among passengers around the world, thanks to it providing arguably the smoothest ride on a commercial aircraft, as well as the space for features like bars and lounges.
On that note: Joyce said on Wednesday that the vaccine rollout in the U.S. and U.K – both big markets for Qantas – are positive signs for a bounce-back in traffic on Australian long-haul routes.
Emirates, another proponent of the jet, “has said its fleet could return next year after vaccines have rolled out globally,” Bloomberg reports.
Simple Flying reports that Joyce “remains confident that the borders will open up in October this year,” after which time, “the 787 will be picking up the slack from the loss of the A380 and 747.”
“Our plan was at the end of October, if the international borders were to open up, we could start 22 of the 25 destinations we had pre-COVID with smaller aircraft, smaller premium seats on it. And we think that’s sufficient to make good money and the economics work on that business,” Joyce said.
As for the A380, the expectation is still that demand won’t be high enough until 2024.
“We know the demand will come back, it’s just a matter of time … We’ve had this forecast for some time that we don’t see that occurring until ’24. That’s directed our strategy by saying that we park the A380s.”
If the planets align though, Joyce also said: “If demand comes back earlier, we can reactivate the A380s within three to six months. That’s the level of flexibility we have.”
Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) president Murray Butt was interviewed by The Australian earlier this year. On the topic of long haul travel he said: “There’s a lot of pent-up demand for international travel.”
“Once borders do reopen, it will be interesting to see how quickly that moves.”