Qantas says it has cancelled its outstanding order for eight A380s after discussions with Airbus. The eight aircraft were part of an order for 20 A380s made in 2006.
“Following discussions with Airbus, Qantas has now formalised its decision not to take eight additional A380s that were ordered in 2006,” Qantas said in a statement on Thursday.”
“These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time.”
The change was expected to be reflected in the Airbus Orders and Deliveries summary for January 2019.
There have been 321 total orders for the A380 since it was launched in the early 2000s, according to the Airbus website. At December 31 2019, 234 of the type had been delivered, leaving the backlog standing at 87 aircraft. The Australian flag carrier was the third airline to take delivery of the world’s largest passenger aircraft behind launch customer Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Emirates Airline in October 2007 and July 2008, respectively.
Initial plans had Qantas potentially operating up to 30 A380s. However, the firm order book eventually stood at 20 aircraft. While those eight remaining A380s remained listed as “on order” for many years, the thinking at Qantas’s Mascot headquarters has been that they would never be taken.
Although the order for eight new aircraft has been now formally cancelled, Qantas is continuing to invest in the A380 fleet.
Now in its second decade flying in Qantas colours, the airline is conducting what it describes as a multi-million dollar upgrade of the aircraft’s interiors.
The mid-life refurbishment program, which is being managed by Airbus, includes replacing the SkyBed II business class and premium economy seats with a similar product to what appears on Qantas’ Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A330s, a new upstairs lounge area and enhancement of its first class offering.
The work was due to get underway by the middle of calendar 2019 and be completed before the end of 2020.
“Qantas remains committed to a major upgrade of its existing A380s, which begins in mid-calendar 2019 and will see us operate the aircraft well into the future,” Qantas said.
As Qantas usually operates aircraft for about 20 years, a decision on what aircraft will eventually replace the A380 in the fleet will not have to be made for quite some time.
The airline’s evaluation of how many A380s it needs in the future is likely to be impacted by the prospect of being able to operate nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to London Heathrow and New York with either the A350 or Boeing 777X that is currently being considered under Project Sunrise.
Meanwhile, Qantas said its Boeing 747 fleet would be reduced to nine by the end of February 2019 with one aircraft to be retired by the end of the month. The last 747 was scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of 2020, in time for the airline’s centenary celebrations.
In terms of outstanding orders, Qantas has six 787-9s due for delivery from the end of 2019 while its low-cost carrier arm Jetstar was expected to receive the first of 18 A321LRs (also known as the A321neoLR) from mid-2020.