DALLAS – Qantas (QF) is operating its first flight with the Superjumbo A380 since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ‘Airboss’ is back in service on the route from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) and Los Angeles International (LAX). This first passenger flight marks the end of the A380 fleet grounding at QF. A second aircraft of the type flew to Australia yesterday, as the airline reactivates more superjumbos.
First Flight to LAX
QF11 is the first A380 flight for the carrier in almost two years. The type operating this inaugural flight is VH-OQB, AKA ‘Hudson Fysh’, after one of QF’s founders. It is the only operating A380 in the airline’s fleet, but others will soon come.
Since it came back from America, the aircraft has performed numerous short flights over Australia. These flights allow crews to train and also to perform maintenance checks.
QF11 took off this morning from SYD, and it is currently flying above the Pacific Ocean at the time of writing. It is expected to land at LAX this afternoon. The flight back, QF12, is special, as it lands two days after it took off. It is partly due to the long flight time, with more than 14 hours in the air.
Qantas first planned to refurbish VH-OQB’s cabin before flying it again. However, the airline had to expedite its return because of new quarantine rules in the Australian state of Queensland. Indeed, some pilots have to be quarantined for 14 days after every international flight. It makes the planning harder for QF, which has trouble flying enough aircraft to meet the demand.
The A380 will help the airline solve this problem, as it can carry so many passengers. A spokesperson at QF indeed said, “Having the aircraft and the crew ready to go means we’re able to plug some of the gap created by having so many 787 pilots stuck with quarantine rules.”
Qantas A380 Fleet
Just like the vast majority of airlines around the world, QF decided to ground its A380s at the beginning of 2020, when the COVID pandemic drastically reduced international travel demand. But now, with the recovery from the pandemic, airlines are starting to see travel demand rise again. Therefore, many airlines are bringing the type back to service, like Asiana Airlines (OZ) or British Airways (BA) for example.
Qantas first announced it would bring its A380 fleet back to the skies in Spring 2021. The airline said they would fly it again as soon as travel demand rises again. Then during summer 2021, the airline was more precise, saying the A380 will fly between LAX and SYD from July 2022, and then to London Heathrow (LHR) with a stop in Singapore Changi (SIN) from November 2022.
However, QF pushed the return of the super-jumbo to today, as it finally did with this first flight to LAX. The airline plans to operate to route to LHR this summer. This rapidity is due to international demand being higher than expected and also new Queensland quarantine rules.
Moreover, the operating A380 fleet will grow in the coming months. Another aircraft, VH-OQD, flew back to the QF base at SYD. The aircraft had spent more than 600 days in the Californian desert, along with some other QF super-jumbos. Just as the first one did, this aircraft will undergo some maintenance checks before operating passenger flights again.
We see more and more A380s joining QF’s operating fleet, but are unsure whether the whole fleet will fly again one day.
Featured image: Qantas flew 12 A380s before COVID. Photo: Otto Kirchkof/Airways