Qantas’ A380 fleet may have seen its final international flight for three years after the last of the models being refurbished flew to a Californian desert boneyard on Friday.
The airline announced months ago that all 12 of its A380s would enter hibernation, with six of those being upgraded beforehand.
The Qantas A380, VH-OQI msn 055, departed Dresden maintenance facility in Germany as flight QF6006 at 10:36am on 25 September. It landed at the Victorville, California, facility 11 hours later.
The final international Qantas A380 flight until at least 2023. All Qantas A380s will soon be in California for storage. Qantas has said mid-2023 is the earliest any of the 12 could fly again. https://t.co/Iw2PTB2Gwv pic.twitter.com/FPuHSmaNuY
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 25, 2020
According to the website Planespotter, which has been tracking aircraft hibernations, 10 of its fleet are now in the desert, with two residing at a special Qantas hangar at LAX.
In June, the Qantas Group announced it would ground 100 aircraft for up to 12 months, including most of its international fleet.
It said there was “significant uncertainty” as to when flying levels will support the return of the A380, and revealed it would defer deliveries of A321neo and 787-9.
“As a result, the carrying value of the A380 fleet, spare engines and spare parts will be written down to their fair value,” Qantas said.
Chief executive Alan Joyce added that the A380s “have to remain on the ground for at least three years until we see those international volumes brought back”.
“The aircraft are being put into the Mojave Desert, where the environment protects the aircraft (because) we have the intention at the right time to restart them, but that is a considerable amount of time away,” Joyce said.
The six that are being refurbished are being upgraded with new business class seats and inflight lounges, and are likely to be among the first to come back when the A380 finally returns.
“There is a potential to bring all 12 [A380s] back, but there is a potential to bring less than 12 back,” Joyce said in May, when he announced the review.
The news marks a turnaround from October 2019, when Australian Aviation reported how Qantas welcomed back its first Airbus A380 featuring a refurbished cabin including new business class seats, a new lounge on the upper deck and more premium seating.
The reconfiguration program, first announced in August 2017, was being managed by Airbus, which said at the time the new interior took advantage of the A380’s large floor area to “most efficiently embody Qantas’ latest seat products for business class and premium economy”.