Qantas has brought its double-decker Airbus A380 back into service earlier than anticipated, with the first Qantas A380 passenger flight in almost two years jetting off from Sydney to Los Angeles on Tuesday night. But there have been some teething issues, with the in-flight entertainment not working on the very first flight.
The first aircraft to be brought back into service has not yet been refurbished, meaning it still has the old SkyBed Business Class seats. Qantas is also not yet selling First Class on these flights – but that’s only a temporary, and in the meantime some lucky Business Class passengers are being seated in the First cabin.
After conducting many crew training flights around Sydney over recent weeks, VH-OQB (named Hudson Fysh) took off from Sydney Airport as QF11 at 10.07pm on Tuesday, 11 January 2022 for the 13-hour, 23-minute flight to Los Angeles. There were quite a few empty Economy Class seats on board, but Business Class was close to fully booked.
Passengers booked on QF11 were advised a day before departure that in-flight entertainment would be unavailable “due to a technical fault”. They were given $50 worth of vouchers to spend at the airport before boarding as compensation.
11 of the 14 First Class seats were occupied on departure, having been offered to top-tier frequent flyers. People sitting in the First Class seats only received Business Class meals and service. But based on the currently loaded fares, Qantas will resume selling these seats as First Class (and bring back the full service to match) from 27 March 2022.
AFF member NSun happened to be on the flight, and posted this on the forum after landing in Los Angeles:
It was great for the crew to have the superjumbo back and I was happy for them too. I also saw quite a few plane spotters when we landed at LAX and can already see some pics on social media.
Obviously the biggest con of the flight was the lack of entertainment. I went in thinking “at least there’ll be a flight map” because even on some 737 flights without entertainment in 2020/21 at least there was a map. There wasn’t even that so I was left to checking the time on my phone to see how long we had to go. Nothing was mentioned over the PA about it but my seat mate asked the CSM near the end of the flight and they didn’t know what had happened to the system.
The F cabin did have some people sitting there but it wasn’t full – the other 2 business cabins were full although Premium economy was only at 50%. Meals were standard international J meals although dinner was just a main course and dessert not the “small plates/large plates” option that existed pre-COVID.
– NSun, 12 January 2022
Qantas A380 back earlier than expected – but it’s not refurbished
Qantas had originally planned to operate daily Boeing 787-9 flights from Sydney to Los Angeles over the coming months, bringing the A380 and First Class back onto the route from July 2022. But due to a shortage of Boeing 787-9 pilots – many of whom have been in quarantine – Qantas is now scheduling 3x weekly Airbus A380 services on the Sydney-Los Angeles route over the coming months. There’s also a supplementary Boeing 787 Sydney-Los Angeles service running on Saturdays, bringing the route frequency to 4x weekly.
The reintroduction of the Qantas superjumbo is great news for Airbus A380 enthusiasts. But for Business Class passengers, the older-style SkyBed seats are a bit of a downgrade compared to the newer Business Suites found on the Boeing 787s and Qantas’ refurbished A380s.
Qantas was in the process of refurbishing all of its Airbus A380s with new Business Class and Premium Economy seats when COVID-19 grounded the entire fleet. A majority of planes have already been upgraded, but for whatever reason, Qantas has chosen to restart A380 flights using one of the aircraft yet to receive a refresh.
Still, the older configuration is good news for lucky Economy passengers who are able to select a seat in the prized upper deck Economy cabin. This more private Economy cabin was removed from the refurbished aircraft to make way for a larger Premium Economy cabin.
Qantas will eventually bring back 10 A380s
Of the 12 Airbus A380s in Qantas’ pre-COVID fleet, 10 will eventually return to commercial service. Most are still parked in the Californian desert, but VH-OQD did also return to Australia last week. This particular aircraft has been refurbished and does have the newer seats, but it’s not currently scheduled to operate any passenger flights for at least the next month.
Qantas will reactivate an additional three A380s by 19 June 2022, when the superjumbo aircraft will also take over from the Boeing 787 on the Sydney-London route. (This flight is currently operating via Darwin, but will be operating via Singapore again by then.)
Several other airlines also started reactivating their Airbus A380s in late 2021 including Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Qatar Airways.
Emirates has continued to fly its flagship A380s throughout the pandemic, but hadn’t been sending any to Australia until December 2021 when it resumed A380 services between Sydney and Dubai. The Emirates A380 is popular for its upper deck bar and First Class showers, although unfortunately the Dubai-based airline’s famous onboard bar is temporarily closed at the moment due to COVID-19.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: QF A380 back in service from January 11