Qantas will ground two-thirds of its A380 fleet, re-route its Sydney-London flight via Perth, and delay the launch of flights to Chicago as it responds to a sudden collapse in demand for air travel due to coronavirus.
Qantas also announced today that it will temporarily suspend flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to San Francisco, as well as Singapore to London. In addition, it will cancel more flights from Melbourne to Singapore and delay the start of Boeing 787 services on its Sydney-Santiago route.
Meanwhile, Qantas’ Sydney-London, Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth and Melbourne-Los Angeles routes will be downgraded from Airbus A380 to Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services. This will leave Sydney-Los Angeles as the only remaining Qantas A380 route, and will result in the loss of Qantas First class service to London for the first time in decades. The Qantas Dreamliner has around 250 fewer seats than the A380 and – even though Qantas’ marketing department seems to think so – no First class.
Qantas will also temporarily close its new Singapore First Lounge from approximately 21 April until mid-September 2020.
In total, the cuts will result in a 31% reduction in Qantas capacity to Asia, a 19% reduction to the United States, a 17% reduction to Europe and a 10% reduction in seats to New Zealand. Qantas says these changes are in line with recent reductions in forward bookings. In total, this leaves 22 Australian Qantas and Jetstar aircraft grounded – plus a further 16 aircraft from Jetstar’s Asian offshoots out of service.
“In the past fortnight we’ve seen a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
“We expect lower demand to continue for the next several months, so rather than taking a piecemeal approach we’re cutting capacity out to mid-September. This improves our ability to reduce costs as well as giving more certainty to the market, customers and our people.”
At this time, the changes announced today apply only until September 2020. After this time, normal operations are predicted to resume. But this will depend on how the global coronavirus situation evolves over the coming months.
Qantas says it will contact customers with affected bookings in the next week to offer alternative flights. This could involve travelling via another city, or a day earlier or later.
Here is a summary of the Qantas and Jetstar international service reductions announced today…
Kangaroo Route downgraded to Boeing 787-9, operating via Perth
From 20 April 2020, Qantas will re-route its flagship QF1 service from Sydney to London. Instead of stopping over in Singapore, the flight will route via Perth. The flight will also be downgraded from an Airbus A380 to a smaller Boeing 787-9.
Qantas already flies daily from Melbourne to London via Perth. This change will result in double-daily Qantas flights from Perth to London, but the loss of Singapore-London service. In some ways, it’s a clever move as it also reduces Qantas’ exposure to the Asian market where demand is currently weakest.
Other A380 flights downgraded to Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners
On 20 April 2020, Qantas will also switch its Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth service from an A380 to a 787-9. The QF93/94 service between Melbourne and Los Angeles will be down-gauged from 1 June 2020.
There are 12 Airbus A38os in the Qantas fleet. From June until September 2020, there will only be two Qantas A380s in service. Two more aircraft will be undergoing heavy maintenance and cabin upgrades in Germany, and the remaining 8 aircraft in the Qantas A380 fleet will be temporarily grounded.
Qantas is not the only airline to ground A380s during the current crisis. Lufthansa recently announced they will ground their entire A380 fleet over the coming months. The superjumbo aircraft are simply too expensive to operate during times of very low demand.
Brisbane-Chicago launch delayed
Instead of launching in mid-April, Qantas’ new non-stop Brisbane-Chicago flight will be delayed until September.
Consolidation of San Francisco services
From 18 April 2020, Qantas will temporarily suspend its Melbourne-San Francisco and Brisbane-San Francisco routes – the latter of which only launched last month. Passengers travelling to San Francisco will instead be re-routed via Sydney. From the same date, Qantas will upgrade its Sydney-San Francisco flight from a Boeing 787-9 to a larger Boeing 747-400.
Qantas had regularly operated Boeing 747s from Sydney to San Francisco until December 2019, when it switched the route to Boeing 787s to much fanfare.
Sydney-Santiago retains Boeing 747
Qantas’ 4x weekly Sydney-Santiago Boeing 747 flight was supposed to switch to a daily Boeing 787 service from 24 June 2020. This will be pushed back until 1 August 2020.
Further Qantas capacity reductions
The following changes were also announced:
- QF25/26: Sydney-Haneda flights downgraded from Boeing 747s to Airbus A330s without Premium Economy from 30 March 2020
- QF37/38: Melbourne-Singapore flights cancelled from 20 April 2020
- QF35/36: Remaining Melbourne-Singapore flights switched from Boeing 787s to Airbus A330s without Premium Economy from 4 May 2020
Qantas says that further changes to New Zealand and Asia schedules (particularly Japan) are possible.
Qantas flight cancellations extended
The following route cancellations, which were previously announced, will be extended until at least mid-September 2020:
- QF129/130 Sydney-Shanghai
- QF127/128 Sydney-Hong Kong (1 daily flight still running)
- QF29/30 Melbourne-Hong Kong (now only 4 days per week)
- QF97/98 Brisbane-Hong Kong (now only 3 days per week)
Jetstar international network changes
The following Jetstar long-haul flights have also been cancelled:
- Melbourne to Bangkok from 1 May 2020
- Sydney/Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City reduced by more than 50% from 1 May 2020
- Gold Coast-Narita, Cairns-Narita & Cairns-Osaka reduced by 40% from 20 May 2020
- Brisbane-Denpasar reduced slightly from 1 May 2020
Change fee waiver for new international bookings
Qantas and Jetstar today announced a new change fee waiver for new international bookings made until 31 March 2020.
Qantas CEO takes pay cut, staff asked to take leave
The Qantas and Jetstar flight cancellations are part of an effort to cut costs at a time of significantly reduced demand. To further cut costs, Qantas is encouraging staff to take paid or unpaid leave while fewer flights are operating.
“Less flying means less work for our people, but we know coronavirus will pass and we want to avoid job losses wherever possible. We’re asking our people to use their paid leave and, if they can, consider taking some unpaid leave given we’re flying a lot less,” Joyce said.
In addition, the Qantas CEO and Chairman will not draw a salary for the rest of this financial year.
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