Despite a change of aircraft Qantas faces a similar problem, albeit one reduced in magnitude, on its non-stop flight between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Qantas’s first flight to the heart of the US mainland with the Airbus A380 takes off as QF7 on Monday, with the double decker superjumbo replacing the Boeing 747-400ER previously used to operate the route.
The use of the flagship aircraft promises 10 per cent more capacity than the 747 and better operating economics thanks to more efficient fuel consumption, Qantas said on Monday.
However, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the airline still has to deal with potential payload restrictions – at 13,805 kilometres the route is the longest flight with the A380 – with seats blocked off or cargo capacity limited due to headwinds when flying west back to Australia.
“There are restrictions on certain times of the year when the headwinds are pretty strong, like there have been on 747s,” Joyce told reporters at Sydney Airport on Monday.
“But the load is a lot better than the 747.
“Some times of the year we can sell full loads, some times of the year we have restrictions.”
Qantas launched service to the biggest hub of its oneworld alliance partner American Airlines in 2011, initially operating three days a week. The flight was direct to Dallas/Fort Worth from Sydney, while the return leg stopped in Brisbane on the way back to the NSW capital.
The service soon increased to six times a day and went daily in July 2012.
With the introduction of the A380, Qantas will drop frequency back to six times a week and end the technical stop in Brisbane. The double decker superjumbo will also allow the Flying Kangaroo to offer first class to Dallas/Fort Worth.
The four-class A380 offers 481 seats, with 14 in first, 64 in business, 35 in premium economy and 371 in economy. The Boeing 747-400ER has 364 seats (58 business, 36 premium economy and 270 economy).
Joyce described the Dallas/Fort Worth route as an amazing success story.
“The economics of this operation have been good with the 747 and will be even better with the A380,” Joyce said.
“We believe that over the last four years we have experienced a lot of information, a lot of knowledge, on how to operate this long sector.”
Upguaging to the A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth comes on top of recent changes to Qantas’s North American network, including seasonal services to Vancouver in January 2015, as well as extra services Los Angeles from Melbourne and the retiming of certain flights to offer a range of departure times out of Australia.
World’s longest routes by distance
1. Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth (13,805 kilometres) – operated by Qantas with Airbus A380
2. Atlanta-Johannesburg (13,582 kilometres) – operated by Delta with Boeing 777-200LR
3. Dubai-Los Angeles (13,420 kilometres) – operated by Emirates with Airbus A380