Why Qantas should have kept their 747's

It’s March 2020, everyone knows what’s happening. No one is allowed to fly for obvious reasons and Qantas is predicting that this may be the case for a while, so in turn, they retire the queen of the sky, the 747. What Qantas maybe didn’t predict, however, is that as quickly as people stop flying, people want to start flying again. The 747 is gone and the airline’s remaining three 787’s are stuck in the U.S, it’s not a great situation for the flying kangaroo

As the hype from last week’s announcement of QF"s new regional, domestic and ultra long haul international aircraft dies down, we must focus on the current problem: Qantas simply doesn’t have enough aircraft for its international flights.

Now, there are some temporary solutions so let’s go through them. Qantas and credit where credit is due to have given their domestic and medium-haul A330-200’s a new role, crossing the Pacific. They can do it, but not in the most conventional way. The delay of “waking up” their superjumbo A380s and continued delays of QF’s remaining 787s has turned the A330 into a workhorse for Qantas. A lower density layout (reducing passenger capacity by about 20) to give the hardworking crew an extra rest area and the aircraft a little less weight in order to extend its range has enabled the flying kangaroo to go the distance. However, there are a few teething problems with this. From the looks of it, QF decided to make at least one of their A330s fly transpacific without modifications, the crew had to make a blanket fort (shown below) and a tech issue prevented the lights from being dimmed on the 12+ hour slog. Not a great look for a “premium carrier”

The constant 787 delivery issues aren’t helping either. People (understandably) want to start getting back to normal and carbon composite issues with the 787s must be providing a massive headache for Qantas’s executives, clearly wanting to expand their route network (and they somehow have during all this, possibly betting they will get their remaining 787’s before the end of 2022) it leaves Qantas using their current fleet of 787’s like complete workhorses. Why did the airline have to launch its new Sydney/Melbourne- Delhi route via Adelaide with A330s? There aren’t enough 787s. Why did the airline have to make their A330s across the Pacific? There aren’t enough 787s. It also indirectly says a lot about their even larger fleet. The 747 was retired in March 2020 and while Qantas may have been correct about the travel downturn, they were seemingly unprepared for the capacity to return in such a dramatic way. This is where the 747 comes in

The 747 could easily cross the Pacific in comfort, it did it for years and years and some may argue it was Queen of the Sky’s main purpose (behind QF1 to London), and here’s the thing, they really aren’t that old. In fact, 6 of QF’s 747 400’s are younger than some of Qantas’s domestic (and short-haul international) 737’s and that’s forgetting some of QantasLink’s Dash 8’s and 717’s. They might not be as fuel-efficient but even with a few months to “wake them up” they would solve Qantas’s overreliance on the 787 and A330 woes in a heartbeat. And with only 3 (out of 10) A380s operating for the Longreach founded airline, it’s clear that this is a short to medium-term issue, however, it’s clearly a big one and one that could easily make some of QF’s most loyal long haul flyers switch over to Delta, Singapore or their partner, Emirates. This isn’t taking into account the call wait times that Qantas is getting ridiculed in the media for. Some say “it’s quicker to fly to Los Angeles than it is to change my LA flight”. Maybe just maybe, just for once, new isn’t better

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The cabin crew’s sleeping quarters one particular flight to the United States, should have gotten Business class image source


Going the distance, VH-EBF “King Valley” in the old livery Image credit

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It doesn’t really matter if they are old or not, They Just aren’t Fuel efficient compared to newer Aircraft like the 787. Which in turn will cost them more miney to operate, Money which theg didnt have at the time.

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Louis kinda gave a whole 4 paragraphs on why the 787 really doesn’t work in the present times for them lol

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I did and I’m proud of it 😂

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Though some of the features that distinguish the B787 from the already 30 year old+ B747 must be considered.

Arguments could very easily be made both for and against the retirement of the B747-400. However, while you do provide some very valid points about the retirement of the B747 now working against Qantas, there are a few factors that you have to consider.

A very fundamental issue that Qantas has been seeing in the last 5-7 years is the lack of a bridge connecting the “second generation” of jets (B747-300/400), and the “fourth generation” of jets (A380/B787/A350). Most carriers, as we know, have a very sizeable fleet of “third-generation” jets, those being the B777, A330 or A340, essentially, those delivered in the early 2000s.

Take airlines like Lufthansa or British Airways, for example. Both of them have a very sizeable fleet of “third-generation” aircrafts that are well equipped for long haul operations. You can see this very well with the B777-200ER operated by British Airways and the A340-300 and to an extent, the A340-600 by Lufthansa. They can cover the capacity demands while offering the best option for the cost they are looking to spend. After all, I never quite understood why Qantas was actively involved with the development of the B777 (alongside other major carriers such as All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Japan Airlines and Delta) only to not go on to order the type when it was officially launched. Perhaps banking on low fuel prices and continued operations of the B747 was what they saw in the early 1990s.

It should also be noted that Qantas has also been looking at plans to retire the B747-400 for a long time now; the retirements seen in 2020 were only of the remaining B747-400ER, while the last of the non-ER models left the fleet in 2019. I’m sure Qantas had the assurance that the B787 they had on their tab would have come through, however, as we all know, composite issues, quality control issues, as well as the eventual closing of the Everett plant to move to Charleston has not only put Boeing at a disadvantage, but Qantas is also reluctant to take delivery of these planes given numerous reports of issues from Qatar, KLM and other major B787 operators.

Another factor that Qantas was ill-prepared for was the return of the A380. With a total fleet of 12, with two permanently retired and the remaining 10 expected to return, I’m rather shocked to see that they have yet to bring the plane back into consistent service. Instead, only see it operate intermittently, even then, running their flights to Los Angeles interchangeably with their B787-9. Perhaps the expectation that the pandemic would have halted travel for at least another 6 months to a year was why they were slow to react. Nonetheless, I think they’ve done a fair job with all things considered.

I believe this shortage is bound to end. Qantas has been working hard at getting this issue sorted and I’m sure that their recent conclusion and hence order for their Project Winton and Project Sunrise is a sign of things to come. The next few years might be a little shaky, though if there’s an airline that can come back from an awkward position through no fault of their own, I’m sure Qantas can.

Ultimately, to me at least, the choice from Qantas to double down and gamble with an all Boeing future seems to have backfired badly, evidently seen with the introduction of the A350-1000 over the B777X that was touted for a long time already, as well as opting for the A320neo family over the B737MAX which was also expected for a long time.

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