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Qantas to return ‘reserve’ aircraft to restore international capacity

written by Adam Thorn | May 19, 2023

Victor Pody shot Qantas’ latest 787-9, VH-ZNL, arriving in Melbourne.

Qantas will release some of the ‘reserve’ aircraft it uses to mitigate delays in order to return its international capacity to pre-pandemic levels by next March.

The Flying Kangaroo said on Friday it would add one million seats to its overseas network over 12 months from October, which it also believes will lower fares.

Nationwide, the domestic aviation industry peaked at 97 per cent pre-pandemic passenger numbers in June last year, but it came alongside all-time records for delays being broken that month and in April and July.

Since then, airlines held aircraft and staff in reserve to combat the problem, allowing employees to jump on to problem flights at short notice. However, this move led to fewer seats being sold and prices increasing to help fund it.

“The network changes will see the group’s international capacity grow to around 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels by March 2024, up from 44 per cent 12 months ago and 84 per cent today,” said the business.


“Most of the flying announced today will be powered by the 2,400 pilots and cabin crew Qantas has recruited into the group since borders reopened. A further 300 people will be needed by the end of the year.”

Qantas has also been slowly bringing its A380s out of the desert and took delivery of another Dreamliner last month, with a further two arriving imminently.

Meanwhile, an additional agreement with codeshare partner Finnair allows it to operate two A330s on two Qantas routes.

CEO Alan Joyce said the demand for international travel since borders reopened was “incredibly strong”.

“Qantas has been the most on-time major domestic airline for the past eight months in a row, and that improved performance means we can release some of the aircraft we’ve had in reserve,” he said.

“That reflects more parts of the aviation supply chain returning to normal, and it’s a huge credit to the hard work of our people across the group.

“While airlines globally are working to restore capacity to meet demand, there is still a mismatch between supply and demand for international flying. But with more of our aircraft back in the air, new 787s joining our fleet and our contract with Finnair, we’ve got more seats for our customers and more opportunity for Qantas crew as we increase our own flying.

“We know our customers are looking for great value, and this additional capacity will also put downward pressure on fares.”

The news comes after Qantas added an extra 57 return services per week between the Golden Triangle of Sydney–Melbourne–Brisbane in March.

The Flying Kangaroo also added seats on transcontinental services to and from Perth using the airline’s larger Airbus A330 fleet, while sister carrier Jetstar boosted its domestic and international flying capacity next six months by 15 percentage points.

In full: changes to Qantas’s international service

Melbourne–Los Angeles

  • Flights to increase from daily to nine per week, increasing capacity by around 60 per cent with more A380 flying.

Sydney–New York via Auckland

  • Flights to increase from three to four per week.


  • Flights to double, increasing from 14 to 28 per week, offering the choice of four daily flights to Japan from 26 November.
  • Sydney –Tokyo to increase from daily to double daily.
  • Melbourne – Tokyo to increase from four per week to daily.
  • Brisbane – Tokyo to increase from three per week to daily.
  • Services from Melbourne and Brisbane will move to Narita Airport.


  • Flights to commence for the first time in more than three years with daily A330 flights.

Sydney–Hong Kong

  • Capacity boosted by more than 50 per cent over the peak Australian summer season, with daily flights to be operated by a mix of A380 and A330 aircraft.

Melbourne–Hong Kong

  • Flights to increase from four per week to daily.


  • Flights to increase from 10 to 14 per week from 31 March 2024.


  • Flights to increase from 14 to 15 per week from 31 March 2024.


  • Flights to increase from three to six per week over the peak Australian summer season.


  • New route to operate daily with E190 aircraft.

Brisbane–Honiara, Solomon Islands

  • New route to operate three days per week with E190 aircraft.


  • Flights to increase from 11 to 14 per week.


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