Australian carriers are struggling to find storage slots for grounded aircraft, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to batter airlines around the world.
Qantas and Jetstar have pulled roughly 150 aircraft from service, which will be spread between short-term storage facilities located at airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and Australia’s only long-term facility in Alice Springs.
Around 50 of the planes are set for Victoria’s Avalon Airport, with another 24 parking up at Sydney (including most of Qantas’ 12-strong fleet of A380s).
Qantas will relocate about a team of 30 engineers to Avalon this week to maintain the aircraft during grounding.
Though multiple sources have claimed that Melbourne and Brisbane airports have waived storage fees for the embattled airlines, Sydney Airport has not indicated it will be doing so.
A spokesman for the airport said that it was in ongoing discussion with airlines to “understand their needs in this rapidly-changing situation”.
The Alice Springs parking facility – Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) – is set to fill up within the next few weeks. APAS managing director Tom Vincent said that the company was struggling to deal with the influx.
“We are being bowled over with airlines and leasing companies looking to put aircraft in storage,” Vincent said. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing – there are not enough hours in the day.”
“We are moving things around a bit on-site so we can take at least 30 aircraft but we have the go-ahead to start an expansion before the end of the month so we can accommodate 70-80 planes.”
APAS will receive the first wave of grounded aircraft there this week. These will include Qantas’ last five remaining 747 jumbos.
Desert storage facilities such as APAS are often used by airlines for long-term parking. Lack of humidity, condensation and salt in the air reduces the risk of corrosion.
“The dry air is kind to the stored aircraft. Also, it’s cheaper than most airports,” said Peter Harbison, Centre for Aviation chairman.