Qantas Will No Longer Sell First Class To Hong Kong

Qantas is undergoing a major restructuring due to their financial woes, whereby they’re cutting a lot of the “fluff” out of their longhaul network, where they’re losing a loy of money. To recap:

Qantas is adding A380 service to Dallas/Ft. Worth

Apparently the only longhaul routes on which Qantas is still making money are their US routes, in particular their A380 service from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles.

Since they’re still doing fairly well in the US market, Qantas decided to add 6x weekly A380 service to Dallas as of September 29, 2014, which will be the longest A380 route in the world. This seems like a really smart move, not just because it increases capacity in terms of the number of available seats, but because the 747-400 previously operating the route was frequently weight restricted, and couldn’t even fly out full.

Qantas-A380
Qantas A380

The major issue, though, is that Qantas only has 12 A380s, so where do they get the two A380s from that are required to operate the Dallas route?

Qantas drastically changed schedule on Melbourne to London flight

Qantas offers daily service from both Melbourne and Sydney to London, which routes via Dubai. Previously the planes operating both routes sat at Heathrow all day before starting the return journey, so it was really inefficient to have 12-16 hours of ground time.

So as of July 20, 2014, Qantas is changing the schedule on the Melbourne to London flight so that Qantas’ overall London Heathrow A380 ground time is being cut in half.

This impacted my US Airways 140,000 mile first class award to Australia, which I routed via London and Dubai.

And now Qantas is cutting first class service to Hong Kong

As it stands, Qantas is offering 5x weekly A380 service between Sydney and Hong Kong, while the other two days the service is operated by a 747-400 featuring first class. This is one of Qantas’ few 747-400s still featuring first class, as a majority of them have been reconfigured in a three cabin configuration (featuring business class, premium economy, and economy).

As I mentioned above, Qantas has 12 A380 aircraft. Operating their two Los Angeles flights, two London flights, and one Dallas flight takes 11 A380s. Then you need one “spare,” since one plane is often getting maintenance done.

That leaves very little wiggle room in the schedule, so not surprisingly, Hong Kong is getting the cut and will no longer have a first class cabin for sale as of September 29, 2014.

Qantas-A380-First-Class
Qantas A380 first class

If you look at availability starting September 29, 2014, you’ll see that the schedule still shows an A380 five days a week, but they’ve zeroed out first class.

Qantas-A380-Availability

And if you look at the first class seatmap you’ll see that all the seats are blocked.

Qantas-first-class-cabin

What’s apparently going on here is that Qantas hasn’t fully decided on their schedule for Hong Kong yet, but does plan to eliminate first class in the market. They’ll be switching from a four class 747-400 to a refurbished three class 747-400. Australian Business Traveller has the following scoop on the situation:

Qantas has not revealed the fate of its flagship Airbus A380 on the Hong Kong route, but has promised “more detail on this in the next few weeks.”

“As well as aircraft availability and patterning, the other factor we’re looking at in determining this mix is seasonal demand. Given the capacity difference, the A380 would make more sense at peak times.

So I suppose theoretically it’s possible that while an A380 isn’t undergoing maintenance they could fly it to Hong Kong based on “seasonal demand,” though I doubt we’ll see that very often. If that happens they won’t sell the first class cabin, but instead just seat elite members up there.

My money is on this permanently becoming a three cabin 747-400 route, basically just swapping planes with the Dallas route. So I wouldn’t trust the schedule right now, which still shows 5x weekly A380 service, just without a first class cabin for sale.

The only disappointment is how they’re communicating these changes

I think all of Qantas’ route changes are brilliant. When you’re an airline that’s losing hundreds of millions of dollars you can’t afford to park a plane at Heathrow for 16 hours every day if there’s a way to avoid it. So I give them credit for making all of these changes.

What I find rather puzzling is the pace at which they’re making these massive changes which greatly impact passengers.

For example, back in February when Qantas announced their restructuring they immediately announced they would be adjusting their schedule between London and Melbourne. However, it took over two months before they actually updated the schedule, something that radically impacted passengers booked on the route, since it was a schedule change of nearly 12 hours.

Similarly, they announced the Dallas service two weeks ago, and they knew there was no way they could continue to operate the A380 on the Hong Kong route as well. Yet they kept selling first class, even though they knew that wouldn’t happen. And even know they’re still showing an A380 on the route, even though they know that’s not feasible.

So I give them kudos for these changes, though am shaking my head at the way they’re rolling them out.

(Tip of the hat to AJK)

Comments

  1. As I earlier wrote on one of Ben’s posts,… I took QF93 from MEL to LAX in Feb in first cl. I talked to probably 80% of the people in F. I was the only one on an award ticket! The cabin was completely sold out. One person pd $12,000 RT, another $15,000 RT, another $14,000 RT , there were several people on paid bus. cl tickets that upgraded to first using miles (their bus cl fare was $8000+ RT) First cl and bus cl was 100% occupied. As Ben has previously mentioned the Australia-USA routes are EXTREMELY PROFITABLE for Qantas.

  2. @ Lucky I have a flight booked for next January in F from SYD to HKG using AA miles. Should I just leave it alone for now or look for another option?

  3. @ Evan — Ultimately the only option you’ll be given is to downgrade to business class or book on another flight with award space. Keep in mind Cathay Pacific doesn’t offer a first class cabin to Australia, so I guess it comes down to whether you’re ultimately comfortable with business class or not.

  4. Hi Lukcy,

    What is your sense on the timing on this? I know that they won’t be selling first class as of 29 Sept., and that date coincides with the launch of the DFW route.

    I have an AA award booked HKG-SYD in QF first on 21 Sept. In your opinion, are they likely to pull the 380 off the HKG route more than a week in advance for maintenance/positioning?

  5. Dammit. I have a roundtrip booked from HKG-SYD in F on the a380 at the end of October. Hopefully they wont swap it with a 747 on the dates I am flying. :: fingers crossed ::

  6. QF has intimated that where the A380 is operated after 29 September the airline’s elite level frequent flyers will be seated in the F cabin (but will otherwise receive the standard J soft product).

  7. @ Al — Yep, though in reality I doubt they’ll be offering much A380 service to Hong Kong at all after September 29, given that they don’t really have a plane with which to operate the frequency. I think no longer selling first class is the first step towards a permanent equipment change.

  8. Lucky wrote, “Previously the planes operating both routes sat at Heathrow all day before starting the return journey, so it was really inefficient to have 12-16 hours of ground time.”

    Isn’t this Flight Ops 101, planes make no $ while on the ground.. But I guess things move slower down under.

  9. did you notice there is not a single F award seat available from US-AU or back on AA at all? sad…
    🙁

  10. Lucky,

    Since I booked my roundtrip using avios and I decide to cancel the itinerary, would I be able to avoid paying the Avios fee to redeposit my miles? Or I have no chance in hell? I am really not looking forward to calling up the Avios line.

  11. @ Orly — If it’s due to a downgrade/schedule change you shouldn’t have to pay the fee, though will have to call to do so.

  12. One thing I will quibble with is the weight restriction. An A380 has a lot more seats than a 744, but only a little more (by percentage) lift capacity. Since the QF 744 flights are sometimes weight restricted, the A380 flights will be too. The advantage lucky, as you pointed out last time, is that the a380 won’t have to make that Brisbane fuel stop like the 744 does.

    @John Very interesting! Must be profitable even at current fuel prices.

  13. Just checked my reservation on the Qantas site and got the following message:

    “Please review the following items
    Please note that the Airline has cancelled one or more of your selected flights. Please modify your reservation, or contact your travel agent for further information. (9115)
    The system is temporarily unable to process your request. Please try again. (9102)”

    When I check on BA.com they swapped my RT F booking on the a380 to a U booking on the 747. Major FML…

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