Qantas has reinstated its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft on its Melbourne to Los Angeles route, after bringing its fourth A380 out of the California desert and returning it to passenger service.
The A380, VH-OQJ, took off from Melbourne on Monday at 9:57pm on local time as QF93, embarking on its 14-hour journey to LAX.
VH-OQJ was removed from the Victorville “boneyard” – where five Qantas A380s still remain – on 8 April and moved to LAX. Late last month, it was moved to Sydney before being ferried to Melbourne on 6 June ahead of its first passenger service in over two years.
While being the fourth of Qantas’ A380 fleet to return to passenger service, the aircraft is currently one of three superjumbos now in regular operation, after VH-OQB was ferried to Abu Dhabi for an interior refurbishment.
VH-OQD and VH-OQK also remain in regular passenger service, on Qantas’ routes to between Sydney and Los Angeles.
From 19 June, Qantas will also resume operating its flagship QF1 route from Sydney to London via Singapore, as opposed to Darwin, using one of its newly refurbished A380s.
Of the 12 Qantas A380s, three are currently in Abu Dhabi to have their interior cabins refurbished.
Qantas said the refurbished aircraft feature a “reconfigured business class cabin, with 70 updated business suites, and an extended premium economy section with 60 seats, up from 35, as well as refreshed economy and first cabins”.
The iconic upper deck lounge will also now include booth-style seating for 10 people, a self-service bar and the ability to order “signature drinks and snacks”.
The Flying Kangaroo had initially intended to keep its 12 A380s mothballed in the California desert until late 2023. However, in light of Australia’s fast-paced vaccination rollout, the airline later announced it would bring five of the 12 back by mid-2022.
Despite this, Qantas has said it will only bring 10 of its 12 jets, and is set to soon retire two of its A380s early, 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, after Airbus finally delivered 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 gave readers the chance to guess which superjumbos are destined to be grounded for life.
More than half of all votes cast in the poll across all 12 aircraft went to VH-OQA, with readers believing Nancy-Bird Walton could enjoy an early retirement, perhaps at the HARS Aviation Museum, or Qantas Founders Museum.
Other top contenders for early retirement included VH-OQH and VH-OQF.
Where are all Qantas’ A380s today?
VH-OQA remains parked at the Victorville storage facility in the California desert, along with VH-OQE, VH-OQF, VH-OQI and Qantas’ youngest A380, VH-OQL.
VH-OQB, VH-OQC and VH-OQH are all currently parked in Abu Dhabi in order to have their interior cabins refurbished, meaning they will all soon return to passenger service.
VH-OQB was the first Qantas A380 to be returned to passenger service in January 2022 but was moved to Abu Dhabi on 10 May.
VH-OQG was ferried out of Victorville to LAX on 1 June, meaning it is likely to soon similarly be sent to Abu Dhabi, or return directly to Sydney, and also resume passenger operations.