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Qantas plans further reduction in turnaround times as part of increased fleet utilisation

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 15, 2015

Increased 737 utilisation is “no small achievement”. (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas will further reduce turnaround times on domestic flights from July as part of efforts to improve fleet utilisation and lower unit costs.

A slide presentation accompanying Qantas’s investor day held on Tuesday showed the airline is reducing turn times – how long an aircraft spends on the ground between flights – for domestic Boeing 737-800 services to 35 minutes from 2015/16, from 40 minutes in the current financial year and 45 minutes in 2013/14.

The introduction of 35-minute turns would “drive further operational and schedule efficiencies”, lower cost per available seat kilometre and increase the return on invested capital, Qantas Domestic chief executive Andrew David told the financial community during Tuesday’s presentation.

Also, these initiatives would result in an $80 million benefit by the end of 2015/16.

“In effect, what we are implementing are low-cost carrier practices overlaid with full service end product,” David said.

“No small achievement, and only possible with the operational excellence that is embedded inside the business in our people, processes and systems.”

A file image of Qantas Domestic chief executive Andrew David. (James Morgan)
A file image of Qantas Domestic chief executive Andrew David. (James Morgan)

Qantas noted the utilisation of its 737 fleet, measured by block hours per aircraft per day, had increased five per cent in the second half of 2014/15, compared with the first half. Moreover, about 30 per cent of flights were turned around in 40 minutes in March 2015, according to the slide presentation.


The Australian carrier has trialled the using both the front and rear doors for boarding on flights operated with its 737-800 fleet at Gold Coast Airport (which has no aerobridges) and expanded the initiative to other mainline ports in recent times.

Virgin Australia, Tigerair Australia and Qantas’s low-cost unit Jetstar currently schedule 30-minute turns for most of their domestic flights and use dual-door boarding.

The investor day presentation also showed Qantas International had increased its fleet utilisation by 16 per cent since 2011/12 to 13.6 average hours per aircraft per day, which had allowed the airline to create additional flying opportunities.


Qantas’s Airbus A380 fleet, which serves Dubai, London, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and Hong Kong (during peak periods) fly an average of 13.9 hours per aircraft per day, which was up 14 per cent from 2011/12.

Boeing 747-400s were also working a lot harder, with utilisation up 19 per cent over the past three years to 12.7 average hours per aircraft per day. Qantas plans to reduce its 747 fleet from 12 currently to nine.

Also, the Airbus A330-200/A330-300 fleet had also recorded a 15 per cent increase in utilisation to 15 average hours per aircraft per day, while the Boeing 737-800s were flying seven per cent longer at 12.6 average hours per aircraft per day.

A slide showing Qantas International's fleet utilisation. (Qantas)
A slide showing Qantas International’s fleet utilisation. (Qantas)

“We are using our assets and flying our assets much harder than we ever did before,” Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said.

“That’s enabled us to change our network, generate more revenue with the same asset base, add new points to the map, add new services and additional services to new markets.”

Qantas is launching new Brisbane-Tokyo Narita services from August and has planned an increase in seasonal services to Vancouver, along with extra flights to destinations such as Honolulu, Hong Kong and Santiago, as well as to New Zealand, in peak times.

It had also retimed its Melbourne-Dubai-London service, which leaves Australia at night and departs from London Heathrow in the afternoon, reducing ground time in London and freeing up the A380 fleet to do more flying.

Qantas A380 VH-OQL operating QF7 get a water cannon salute at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. (Qantas)
Qantas now operates the A380 to Dallas/Fort Worth. (Qantas)

Evans said Qantas’s two daily services London from Melbourne and Sydney via Dubai were now being operated by five A380 aircraft, compared with six before the Melbourne service was retimed.

That schedule change, plus tweaks to Qantas’s Los Angeles service and maintenance schedule that freed up another aircraft, had enabled the airline to replace the three-class Boeing 747-400ERs flying between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth with the A380, which offers first class, extra seats and was able to fly non-stop in both directions. (The 747 made a technical stop in Brisbane on the way back to Sydney.)

Gareth Evans at the delivery ceremony in Seattle for Qantas's retro-themed Boeing 737-800. (Gerard Frawley)
Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans. (Gerard Frawley)

“That’s a win-win on London and a win-win on Dallas and a hugely positive impact for the network as a whole,” Evans said.

“There’s multiple examples of that happening and we are right now leading edge in terms of the utilisation of our fleet because of some smart things we are doing leveraging our partners and leveraging the network that we have.”

However, the changes to Qantas’s London schedule had “placed some additional stress on our network and turn-around times” according a Fairfax Media report that quoted a memo to staff from Qantas’s manager of base operations at Sydney Captain Martin Gardiner.

“As a result of our performance, London airport has given Qantas an official warning; meaning that we could be fined £20,000 for each non-compliance of our slot time, or worse lose our slot,” Captain Gardiner said in the memo.

“We have been asked to advise Heathrow what our plans are to improve this performance. All areas of the business including flight operations are now monitoring the performance of these services very closely so that we can improve our performance and retain our landing slots in [London].”

Fairfax Media reported Qantas was the 75th out of 80 airlines that flew to London Heathrow in February.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the issue was being well-managed by the airline.

“We are not going to do this and have utilisation go through the roof and end up having customer satisfaction collapse on us,” Joyce said during the investor day.

“This is day-to-day management of slots.”

Evans said one factor that had impacted the Melbourne flights to London was air traffic control issues through Dubai Airport.

Qantas representatives had recently spoken to the slot coordinator at London Heathrow, Evans said, adding there were plans to “tweak” slots for the next scheduling season “so that we’ve got a little more time to get around the loop and get in on time in London”.

“It was never an issue of losing slots,” Evans said. “We remain incredibly focused on being as punctual as we possibly can be.”

Evans said the on-time performance of Qantas’s international operations had continued to “hold at high levels even though the utilisation has been increased”.

Comments (16)

  • Christopher Campbell


    How is it going to reduce its 747 schedule from the current 12 to 9? As far as I can see the with current 747 schedule they need 12 aircraft. I believe 1 747 is being retired FY2H15

  • MissBasset


    An earlier departure time for QF9 from Melbourne would be welcomed. It is currently much too late at night. There is not much scope to really enjoy the premium cabin service, when all you really feel like is sleeping!

  • Adrian Mealor


    Qantas have a series of problems kn the future.. firstly their fleet is aging and no new orders have been llaced.. qantas domestic urgently need either bkeing 787 or more a330 . Jetstar has no new planes on the horizon, so expansion is limited.. the present qantas is falling behind other airlines because it has short sighted gkals and nkt long term business development ideas.. I still wont buy qantas shares because as a business it isnt showing anh vision. Working the fleet harder is good but they need a fleet development plan

  • Phil


    Unfortunately the good intentions of reduced turn around times gets thrown out the window when departures are delayed by ATC due to landing slots. I.E Brisbane.

  • Jack


    Adrian the Qantas fleet age is fine and the lowest it has been for ages and well on par with the rest of the world.

    They are getting rid of two A330’s in fact one left this week so why do you say they need more? Qantas clearly thinks otherwise. I hear you saying something about replacing the 767’s but bottom line Qantas has clearly made the decision that the 737’s can do the job in the current market.

    Do they need 787’s well maybe not. They have the A330’s which do a good job transcon and around Asia. If anything the aircraft they need is the A350 to replace 747’s which is the one area of the fleet that doesn’t make sense.

    As for buying shares in Qantas we’ll show me an airline that is worth buying shares in?

  • Boggles


    Qantas are now experimenting with useing rear stairs to offload/load passengers to speed up departure times,but as a premium airline making passengers walk across the Tarmac in winter come on,ok for a budget carrier in warmer weather.qantas also want to cut loading gangs from 6people to 4people,which will take longer to load aircraft…so I don’t see turn around times getting better……

  • franz chong


    Is the 737 more than enough capacity.I could be wrong here but prior to domestic wide bodies in Australia it took back then two 727’s to do the job of the A300 and later the 767 and now the A330.

  • Corey


    I’d like Qantas to replace the 747-400s with the new 747-8I as it’s more fuel efficient, can carry more passengers and fly further. A Qantas 747-400 vs a Qantas 747-8 there could be over 50 additional passengers on the -8 compared to the -4 in a 4 class lay out. The 747-8I could bring in approx $30,000-$60,000 additional revenue per flight depending on what time and location the aircraft flies to. (Prices where taken from QF flight booking website flying form BNE to LAX in Economy and averaged out). Operating costs are the same as or less than a 747-400/400ER. That’s $21.9-$43.8 million in additional revenue if Qantas did buy the 747-8I. Also Qantas could get very heavy discounts as the 747-8 is struggling to get sales which further drives my push form them to buy the 747-8I.

  • Riplander


    @ Corey – Boeing 747-8I is a waste of money. The A380 has better economics and can fly further as well as carrying more passengers. That’s why it is struggling for sales. If QF utilises Boeing 747-8I on routes with high load factors they might as well utilise A380 which will be cheaper to operate, assuming load factors remain constant.

  • Riplander


    @ Franz Chong – It may be the case that QF is thinking of serving in frequency rather than bulk, which might suit the traveller to have a variety of options to choose from in terms of flight times. Of course it would make business sense to get the A330 or any other similar sized jet to city routes such as BNE – SYD, SYD – PER. Then again how much demand is there for the big jets apart from Business Class? If they oversaturate the market with seats (like they did a couple of years ago with the capacity war against Virgin) they will increase costs which will reduce their profits.

  • Dane


    How do you make loading faster? Ban those ridiculous roller bags as carry on luggage and be more stringent with the size and weight of bags people bring on board. I hate getting on a plane and you’re held up because someone is struggling to fit their bad in an overhead bin.

  • John


    surely 12.6 hours/day utilisation for a 738 can be improved on ?

    & why does QF fly SYD/OOL (QF metal) but not MEL/OOL (with QF metal) ?

  • Dave


    @ John, yeah thats what I thought initially. But I guess the 738’s do a lot of shorter sectors which involve more time on the ground across a working day. Plus I suppose they’re not used as much on overnight flights which means they sit on the ground more at night time.

    I know they see places like Bali as a Jetstar destination but I’ve always thought they could use the QF 738’s parked at places like PER for overnight shorter distance asian services where they can get up and back before being needed the following morning.

  • Corey


    The 747-8I is more efficient than the A380 and the 747-8I can use the existing 747-400 terminals and runways unlike the A380 which airports around the world had to build new terminals for the aircraft and upgrade or build new runways and taxiways as the A380 is very heavy and large in size. There are only 5 airports built to handel the A380 here in Australia with limited use for pilot training at Adelaide Airport on the other hand the 747-8I can land at over 10 airports that I can think of with out researching here in Australia. The A380s can be still used on the major flights but take the A380 flight to Hong Kong and replace it with a 747-8 freeing the A380 for on flight out of Brisbane to LAX and use the 747-8I to LAX, NYE, HKG, YVR, SIN, JNB, ITM, HND from BNE, PER, SYD, MEL and DRW. On another subject but still with Qantas I do think they will buy the 737MAX in the future to replace the current 737-800NGs as they will be the only single aisal aircraft with pressurised cargo bay fro live animal transport unlike the A320 family. I do also think Qantas will fit the Leap-1A engines to the Jetstar fleet for common serviceability on the engines.

  • Richard


    A couple of things,
    1) it is about time Qantas started using the rear doors for entry/exit. There is nothing worse than being in one of the rear seats knowing it’s going to take ages to get off..And as a previous person commented it doesn’t help with the hand luggage some people bring on board..
    2) utilization I don’t know how Qantas can get rid of anymore 747’s. It seems to me there is less and less fat in the system. With the recent A380 damage what would have Qantas done if they couldn’t have replaced it with a 747 on the LAX route?perhaps its about time Qantas got the rest of their A380s.

  • Dane


    @Dave, the more you fly an aircraft, the more often it needs maintenance checks and more it’s in maintenance, the less time it is in the air making money. While it might seem like a waste to have a 738 parked on the ground overnight, it actually save money for the airline in the long run.

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