Qantas’ CEO-in-waiting, Vanessa Hudson, has hinted the airline’s A380s will be retired within the next ten years.
The airline dispensed with two of its fleet of 12 Super Jumbos during the pandemic, with the other 10 stored in a Californian desert boneyard before being returned to service.
Many commentators initially thought the giant aircraft would suffer the same fate as its Boeing 747s, which were dispensed with in 2020.
However, reduced international capacity post-pandemic has seen the aircraft’s economies of scale give the Airbus a new lease of life for the Flying Kangaroo.
Qantas currently uses the aircraft on many of its flagship routes, including the iconic QF1 ‘kangaroo’ flight from Sydney to London via Singapore.
But speaking at IATA’s AGM in Istanbul, Hudson said “ultimately the A380 fleet” would be replaced over the next decade.
She was speaking about plans to sell 24 international aircraft, arguing that market conditions suggested that the “one thing we are hearing from speaking to the manufacturers and other airlines is there is significant demand for widebodies”.
Australian Aviation exclusively revealed in April how the second and final Qantas A380 was dismantled in the Victorville desert boneyard.
A photo taken by aviation photographer Andrew Hunt showed previously scrapped VH-OQF alongside another Super Jumbo once owned by the Flying Kangaroo, certainly VH-OQE.
While its registration couldn’t be verified, all other Qantas A380s have now left California and are either in service or being upgraded in Abu Dhabi.
Qantas grounded its entire fleet of 12 A380s during the pandemic, with most sent to the notorious Southern California Logistics Airport, better known as Victorville.
The business has been slowly returning them to commercial flying.
Qantas now has seven A380s back flying commercially: VH-OQB, VH-OQD, VH-OQH, VH-OQK, VH-OQJ, VH-OQG, and VH-OQL.
Of the rest, VH-OQC, VH-OQA and VH-OQI are currently in Abu Dhabi receiving a cabin upgrade.
Australian Aviation reported earlier this year how Qantas welcomed back into service VH-OQL, which is now flying between Sydney and Hong Kong.
It comes after another A380 from the national carrier made national news in December when it made an emergency landing in Baku while en route to London.
The incident happened after a sensor light alerted pilots to the possibility of smoke in the cargo hold days before Christmas.
The aircraft turned around above Tbilisi, Georgia, before touching down in Azerbaijan. Investigations later revealed no evidence of smoke, meaning the incident was due to a fault with the sensor and a false alarm.
Qantas dispatched a recovery flight, which landed in the British capital on Christmas Day. The grounded aircraft, VH-OQH, was later deemed safe to fly and returned to commercial service days later.
VH-OQA, Qantas’ first A380, was involved in arguably Australian aviation’s most serious-ever safety incident, when its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine exploded shortly after it took off, causing a major fire in November 2010. It subsequently returned to service.
Qantas is currently in the middle of a huge fleet renewal program that will see it completely overall most of its domestic aircraft, largely replacing its ageing Boeing 737s with next-generation Airbus A321XLRs and A220-300s.
In May last year, the airline firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes and replace its 737s and 717s. The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
It also confirmed a separate order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets to launch its long-awaited Project Sunrise non-stop flights connecting Australia’s east coast cities to major global hubs, including London and New York.
Meanwhile, subsidiary brand Jetstar has begun welcoming the first of its new fleet of 38 A320neos. Jetstar will take delivery of 18 A321LRs by mid-2024, and a further 20 A321XLR aircraft – an even longer-range variant – between 2024 and 2029.
In addition to aircraft for commercial flights, Qantas in February announced it would purchase an additional three A321s it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s.
The three new A321P2Fs are in addition to its plan to purchase six more announced in August last year. Qantas’s freight division already has three A321P2Fs (passenger to freighters) and plans to also convert two wide-body A330s for cargo use. It means Qantas will have a final fleet of 12 A321P2Fs.
Finally, Qantas has begun to take delivery of three new 787-9s that were delayed by two years.