Are Bangkok and Tokyo next for Qantas A380s?

A380 at MEL under jetway.JPG

Qantas’s lawsuit against Rolls-Royce is supported by a profusion of documents, copies of which were obtained by Wings Down Under, and give insight into Qantas’s A380 operations.

One such example is where the Qantas A380 fleet may fly to next.

Bangkok and Tokyo

In its 2000 request for proposal to engine manufacturers to supply powerplants for its very large aircraft acquisition (VLA; A380 or 747X-Stretch), Qantas outlined an “indicative only” plan of where it would operate its VLAs.

The first route would have commenced in the third quarter of 2005 on the Melbourne-Singapore-London route and eventually ramped up to nine weekly flights.

The next quarter would see the start of daily services from Sydney to London via Bangkok.

The first quarter of 2006 would see the start of thrice-weekly Melbourne-Los Angeles flights and twice daily Sydney-Los Angeles flights.

Finally a thrice-weekly Sydney-Tokyo service would be launched on the A380 in the third quarter of 2006.

BKKSYDNRT.gifOnly last month did the first pegged route, Melbourne-Singapore-London start on the A380. The kangaroo flight from Sydney was routed through Singapore, not Bangkok, and frequencies all around have changed, but the general routes have so far held, suggesting Bangkok and Tokyo could–could–be future A380 destinations.

Arguments against this are Bangkok’s political woes being a deterrence from deploying the premium A380. Plus since Bangkok is 807 miles closer to London than Singapore, the A380′s higher payload makes more of a difference from Singapore than Bangkok.

The Japanese market has seen a downturn since 2008 with much capacity re-allocated to Jetstar. It was only last year Qantas put a 747 on the route in recent times. Even then, the Melbourne-Tokyo route has not been re-instated. How soon will Tokyo be ready for more capacity?

Value Qantas saw in A380

Tokyo Narita along with Sydney, London, and Los Angeles was a key destination for the A380 when Qantas management sent its request for approval acquisition to its board in November 2000.

The A380 would “address slot, curfew and commercial scheduling limitations” at those four airports, says the request, approved by then-CEO James Strong and reviewed by CEO Designate Geoff Dixon and CFO Peter Gregg.

The A380 would also “improve existing payload-limited sectors such as Los Angeles-Sydney and Singapore-London,” the request says. Qantas initially planned for the A380s to “provide international capacity growth at approximately 5% per annum”.

Planned A380 configuration

QF VLA configs.jpgCompare all announced A380 configurations here

Qantas also in 2000 detailed indicative interior configurations. The configurations are an example of industry trends: fewer premium seats and premium economy becoming more popular. They also reflect what changed in the eight years between Qantas’s indicative configuration, the delivered configuration, and forthcoming configuration. In short: the number of economy seats stayed the same, first class decreased, business shrunk significantly, and premium economy grew out of nowhere.

Qantas envisioned seating 514 passengers in the A380 across three classes: 18 in first (2-4-2 on the main deck), 106 in business (2-2-2 on upper deck), and 390 in economy (3-4-3 on the main deck or 2-4-2 on upper deck). The 747X-Stretch would have seated 488 passengers: 14 in first, 100 in business, and 374 in economy. The upper deck would have seated business class exclusively.

An alternative A380 configuration was to place 14 first class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration on the upper deck (which Qantas followed through with, albeit on the lower deck), 96-106 business seats, and 390-414 economy seats for a total of 514 to 524 seats.

The current Qantas A380 configuration of 450 seats (390 in economy, the creation of premium economy with 32 seats, 72 in business, and 14 in first) shows there were steep reductions across the board from the indicative configuration: 15% in economy, 32% in business, and 22% in first. The large drop in business seats is noteworthy considering future Qantas A380s will have fewer business class seats.

Missing, of course, is how much Qantas planned to charge for the 514 seat configuration; it is possible Qantas has higher yields with the lower seat count due to a better product and premium economy costing little extra above economy but delivering higher yields.

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