Qantas has completed the first phase of a planned contraction of its money losing international operations, scaling back flights on the Kangaroo route to London and replacing Buenos Aires services with flights to Santiago, Chile.
The carrier ended flights to London via Hong Kong and Bangkok on Sunday, leaving daily return services from Sydney and Melbourne via Singapore as the only fully Qantas-operated options between Australia and London. Qantas passengers connecting through Hong Kong and Bangkok will now transfer to a codeshare flight operated by British Airways for the longer leg of the journey. BA, in turn, will drop its Sydney-Bangkok services and increase flights between London and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the last Qantas flight to Buenos Aires departed on Saturday, with flights on the new route connecting Sydney and Santiago beginning on Monday morning.
The changes are part of a five-year plan announced in August meant to staunch losses from Qantas’s increasingly uncompetitive international operations. As part of that plan, Qantas deferred the purchase of the last six of the 20 A380s it plans to buy from Airbus and moved up the retirement of all but nine of its Boeing 747-400s. The remaining 747s are being upgraded to an A380-style interior, a project that is roughly halfway finished.
The end of the London flights came on a weekend that ended with Qantas announcing a deal with China Eastern Airlines to launch a new Jetstar franchise in Hong Kong, news that provided a welcome distraction from the parade of bad news that has dogged the airline for the past year. Still, the retreat from a flagship route that was once a lucrative mainstay of Qantas’s international network is significant, and not just symbolically.
The new schedule with BA is notable for offering a relatively limited choice of flight times in comparison to its key competitors.
Under the contracted schedule, the daily Qantas A380 service between Melbourne and London departs as QF9 at 3:30 p.m. and returns as QF10 at 10:30 p.m. London time. The other option, a Qantas A330 to Hong Kong with an onward connection on a BA 747-400, also departs Melbourne in the afternoon at 2:15 p.m. That contrasts with Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines, all of which offer two daily flights from Melbourne to London including a late-night option.
The Sydney-Singapore-London service, also aboard an A380, has been renumbered as QF1 returning as QF2, a designation it takes over from the former Sydney-Bangkok-London flight. QF1 departs at 4:10 p.m. and arrives in London at 6:35 a.m., returning at 9:30 p.m. for a 5:10 a.m. arrival.
Again, that leaves Qantas offering a limited choice of flight times in some cases. For example, all three daily Qantas/BA flights from Sydney to Singapore, two of which are operated by Qantas, will leave within a half-hour window in the late afternoon.