Qantas Airways engineers are hard at work preparing the airline’s fleet for international flights to commence today, the first day that Sydney is open to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents without quarantine.
With the exception of its Airbus A380 superjumbos, which are still stored in California’s Mojave Desert, the remainder of Qantas’ international fleet has already begun running some limited cargo and repatriation flights.
“What we do is put them on a part-time schedule, so they’ve been doing one day a week rather than seven days a week,” explained John Walker, the airline’s head of line maintenance.
Australia introduced strict border restrictions in March 2020, barring residents from leaving without special permission and imposing a two-week hotel quarantine for all arrivals, causing Qantas to cease regular international passenger flights.
Report ad At Sydney Airport on Thursday, Qantas engineers and technicians were inspecting brakes and tyres and catching up on minor maintenance work on its fleet of A330 flights, which were operating on lighter schedules.
“If this plane was in a deep sleep, it would take over 1000 man-hours with full crews of 12 or 15 to wake it up,” an engineer noted. “We’ve been doing these wake-up calls for a long time.”
According to him, Qantas has a team of engineers in Los Angeles that go two hours to the Mojave Desert on a daily basis to undertake maintenance on the A380 fleet.
He says that the desert atmosphere is drier there than in Alice Springs, central Australia, where Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways have parked planes.
Five of Qantas’ 12 A380s are scheduled to return to service in April 2022 for London and Los Angeles flights, while two are scheduled to be retired.
London and Los Angeles will be the first destinations for flights from Sydney on November 1. Flights to Vancouver, Singapore, Fiji, and Japan would commence six weeks later.
It is a remarkable milestone for an airline that has not flown internationally since March 2020 and has lost A$20 billion ($15.08 billion) in revenue as a result of the pandemic.
“We are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at an industry gathering on Thursday. “We are seeing a lot of interest in people planning trips for next year.”