Qantas has confirmed its new Perth-London nonstop flights with the Boeing 787-9 will originate in Melbourne, with a new QF9/QF10 Melbourne-Perth-London rotation replacing the airline’s existing QF9/QF10 Melbourne-Dubai-London route operated by the Airbus A380 when services begin on March 24 next year.
The new Melbourne-Perth-London flights will mean a one-hour shorter travel time between Melbourne and London due to a short transit in Perth and the 787-9’s slightly faster cruising speed compared to the A380, but will also mean a significant reduction in Qantas’s capacity on the route, given the airline’s A380s seat 484 passengers, compared to 236 in the 787-9.
However, alliance partner Emirates also announced on Thursday that it will operate an all-A380 schedule to Melbourne from March 24, upgrading the last of its thrice-daily flights from the Boeing 777-300ER.
Qantas 787-9s will seat 42 business class passengers (in a 1-2-1 configuration), 28 in premium economy (at 2-3-2 abreast ) and 166 in economy (at nine abreast), with the 70 business and premium economy seats representing 30 per cent of the cabin, which is the highest percentage of premium seats on board any of Qantas’s widebody fleet. Indeed Qantas’s A380s seat far more passengers in economy class (371) than its 787s will carry in total.
Replacing the four-class A380 with the three-class 787 on Melbourne-London also means Qantas will no longer offer first class on the route.
Meanwhile the A380s currently operating Melbourne-Dubai-London will be redeployed “to meet periods of high demand from Melbourne and Sydney to destinations in Asia, such as Singapore and Hong Kong”, the airline said.
Qantas says Melbourne will become the hub for its first four 787s (currently eight are on firm order), with the first two aircraft to operate the QF95/96 Melbourne-Los Angeles route six times weekly from December with the third and fourth aircraft allowing the operation of Melbourne-Perth-London.
Consequently Qantas will also be able to offer a one-stop Perth-Melbourne-Los Angeles 787 service, with a 90 minute connection on the outbound (QF95) leg (although schedules show the return QF96 787 flight arriving into Melbourne at 08:25, necessitating a domestic transfer as the QF9 Melbourne-Perth flight doesn’t depart until 15:20).
QF9/10 FLIGHT SCHEDULE
|QF95 MEL-LAX||21:40||19:00||Six days (not Tuesdays)||787-9|
With tickets going on sale today Qantas has also announced pricings for the routes, with economy fares for the Melbourne-London and Perth-London routes starting from $2,270, Qantas says. Premium economy fares will start from $4,450 between Melbourne and London and from $4,250 between Perth and London, while return business fares will start from $9,890 return between Melbourne and London and from $9,725 between Perth and London. Economy fares would drop below $2,000 during sales periods, according to the airline.
Qantas first announced plans to operate nonstop Perth-London flights, using an upgraded Terminal 3 on the domestic side of Perth Airport, in December 2016.
“The Kangaroo Route has kept changing with new technology. It used to take four days and seven stops but now we’re able to link Australia and UK in a single hop. It’s a level of convenience Australians have never had before,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement on Thursday.
“We’re conscious that this is a long flight, but not much longer than our Sydney to Dallas service. It’s the kind of route that the Dreamliner was created for, because of its built-in features to reduce jetlag and improve the overall travel experience,” Joyce said.
The first scheduled nonstop flights between Australia and Europe, the Perth-London service will take approximately 17 hours, depending on winds, and at 7,829nm will be Qantas’s longest and the third longest nonstop scheduled flight in the world.
Qantas chief Joyce has previously conceded the operating economics of the airline’s flights to London (it also operates the A380 on daily QF1/2 Sydney-Dubai-London services) are a “challenge”.
“London is a challenge because you have over 30 carriers operating on that market and we have extremely low airfares,” Joyce told the airline’s annual general meeting in October 2016.
“That’s one of the reasons we are considering an operation like Perth-London. If we can make it work out of Perth that is a way of actually having a very good operation we believe into London.”
London is Qantas’s only online destination in Europe, with the rest of the continent largely served via codeshares on its alliance partner Emirates through Dubai. Qantas also has a codeshare in place with fellow oneworld member Finnair for Helsinki, which Emirates does not serve.
Once QF9/10 switches to operating via Perth, Melbourne passengers wishing to travel to Dubai, or via Dubai on one-stop flights to European destinations other than London, will still be able to book on Qantas codeshared Emirates flights.
Emirates’ plans to upgrade its third daily EK408/409 Dubai-Melbourne flights from the 777-300ER to the A380 adds back 945 seats to the route, an increase of 10 per cent for the Dubai-based airline.
Meanwhile, rival Gulf carrier Etihad announced on Wednesday that it is was downguaging capacity on Melbourne-Abu Dhabi, with its EY460/461 A380 flights to be operated by the 777-300ER from October 29, while from the same date the current EY462/463 rotation will see 787-9s replacing the 777-300ER.
Qantas’s first 787 is due for delivery in October and will be registered VH-ZNA, Australian Aviation ‘Traffic’ columnist Gordon Reid reports in the May issue of the magazine.