Qantas welcomes back its first A380 to Australia

The first Airbus A380 of Qantas to be operational in nearly two years is on its way to its home in Australia after a few months of undergoing maintenance in Dresden, Germany. The marmite of the sky, Airbus A380 registered VH-OQB, left Dresden on November 8, 2021, at 10:21 am Local Time, heading towards Sydney and becoming the first giant to arrive home.

The aircraft was ferried to Los Angeles International Airport for storage in March 2020 due to the massive passenger demand fall. Likewise, it was flown to Germany for the process of refurbishing its interior in August this year.  VH-OQB aircraft will likely touch down the home soil at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport after embarking on a nearly 19hour flight journey at around 2:50 pm, November 9.

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The flagship of Qantas Fleet, superjumbo Airbus A380 will likely be taken to maintenance hangar after it lands in Sydney. Then the aircraft will undergo inspection and additional checks and maintenance to return to the skies. The jet is also expected to be available for ground and crew refresher training from mid-December as it has been out of the airline’s care for a long period.

VH-OQB, the first Airbus A380 to be inbound, joined the fleet of Qantas Airways in December 2008 and is now 13 years old. Valued approximately at around $30 million currently, the aircraft has racked up more than 50,000 hours of flight and is the 15th superjumbo A380 aircraft of Airbus Company.

Two of the four-engined, 484-seater, double-decker A380 jets will return to the passenger flights to Los Angeles as soon as April next year, and further three giant A380s will operate from mid-November 2022. The rush of international bookings ignited by border re-opening plans has accelerated the return of Qantas’ flagship A380 superjumbos, which were soaking up the rays in the California desert and weren’t expected to be operated until late 2023.

Photo Steven Hui

Some rumors regarding the operation of VH-OQB on domestic routes have also come out. They suggest the enlisting of A380 for service over the Christmas and summer holiday period. The airline is also planning to utilize A380 on the Kangaroo route to London in April that was slated to be in November previously.

Qantas Airways will permanently retire two of its 12 superjumbos, and the remaining five will gradually be welcomed back in 2024.

The onset of coronavirus pandemic followed by aircraft grounding and storage at the Mojave Desert cast shadows of doubts regarding whether these giant aircraft would bid goodbye to passenger skies forever. Yet, a ray of sunshine sparkled for Qantas’ superjumbos to return to the service when Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, commented on the reactivation of A380s once demand was rejuvenated. The airline had announced to gear up A380’s return to meet the new fast-tracked target in August.

Australia recently opened the international border restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread after more than 18 months for Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate families. The country slammed its territory shut, responding toughly to the coronavirus pandemic, causing a massive decline in airline seat bookings. But now, the ease of strict travel bans has led to strong demand from Australians returning home before Christmas and, therefore, patchy international bookings. Qantas Airways has moved a step closer to reactivating some of the A380s to regular passenger service after the relaxation of border restrictions by the Australian government.

Reasons behind mothballing Airbus A380 fleet

Qantas Airways sent its fleet of 12 superjumbos to long-term storage as global travel restrictions remained at the place. The lower level of passenger demand stimulated the grounding of gentle giants altogether. It was predicted that their days were numbered. Just as the pandemic waves hit the aviation industry, A380 was the top choice for operators around the world to be sent to storage.

The rejuvenating ticket sales and steady rise in international travel bookings are going to be keys to a swift reactivation of the giant of the skies.

Qantas Airways’ schedule update

Qantas Airways will soon resume international flights to Singapore, Fiji, Johannesburg, Bangkok, and Phuket. The national carrier is also in talks with Boeing to deliver three brand new 787-9 aircraft to cater to domestic and international travel. It has scheduled to commence flights to destinations like Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo, and New Zealand from mid-December 2021.

Besides Qantas, Singapore Airlines, British Airways are also bringing forward the return of A380 fleets back in 2021.  

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