Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has again suggested that the Qantas model makes it one of the few airlines internationally that can successfully sustain the Airbus A380 in the post-COVID world.
Speaking with CNN, Joyce said that “pent up demand” in Australia for overseas travel, along with limited available slots of London Heathrow and LAX, means that Qantas can reasonably fill its A380s and make the venture profitable.
“When we looked at the research… The desire to travel once the borders open up and it’s safe to do is massive. It’s three times the levels it normally is in Australia,” Joyce said.
“There’s a lot of pent up demand to visit friends or relatives, to take that holiday.”
Joyce said that the A380 is the “perfect vehicle” to address Australia’s imminent surge in demand for international travel.
“When we look at Australia, we have limited slots at Heathrow, and the A380 helps us meet demand at Heathrow due to its size. And the same to LA,” Joyce explained.
“There’s a scheduling window, all of our flights leave LA between 10:00 and midnight because of the curfew in Sydney… So you can’t really add frequency, so you might as well have a big aircraft that works.”
It comes as Qantas gears up to reintroduce part of its international flight schedule as soon as December, in anticipation of the re-opening of international borders.
However, the eventual re-opening relies upon 80 per cent of the Australian adult population being vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as the Australian government easing certain requirements for vaccinated travellers, such as two-week hotel quarantine.
“There’s still lots of things to be decided between now and then,” Joyce said. “One, we have to get the 80 per cent vaccination rate and uptake here has just been amazing… So I think we’ll get there.
“We also need to resolve this hotel quarantine issue.”
Joyce said that “hopefully” vaccinated travellers would be able to isolate at home after returning to Australia, until they receive a negative COVID test.
The Qantas chief also again noted that travel is likely to only be viable to countries with high vaccination rates “at least to start”.
“We think the west coast of the US is definitely there, London, Canada, Singapore and Tokyo — it’s a big operation that we could parole,” he said.
“And the [Australian] government, the prime minister and the rest of the government, have said that looks like a valid plan but still we have to see how this develops over the next few months.”
Looking ahead, Joyce said the airline has re-activated aircraft and is now in a position to re-train its pilots and cabin crew ahead of the national and global re-start.
“We think once we get to Christmas we’ll be back domestically to over 100 per cent of pre-COVID schedule. Actually for the second half of the [financial] year, from January to June, we’re forecasting 110 per cent so we’re bigger domestically,” he said.
The news comes as Qantas announced it will return five of its 12 Airbus A380s to service “ahead of schedule”, and see 10 of the 12 back in the sky by 2024.
The airline said it will use the five A380s to fly between Sydney and LA from July 2022, and between Sydney and London, via Singapore, from November 2022.
The airline had previously stated that while it was committed to retaining its A380 fleet, the four-engined jets were unlikely to return to service until 2023.
Qantas also announced it will retire two of its A380s, despite earlier predictions stating all 12 will come back into service.
It marks the beginning of the end of Qantas’ iconic A380 fleet, following the decided end of the Airbus A380 program, as Airbus nears delivery of its last-ever A380 to Emirates.
In light of the news, Australian Aviation looked back on the history of the airline’s A380 fleet, and gives readers the chance to guess which superjumbos are destined to be grounded for life.