A380 flights to Los Angeles unprofitable with Trent 900s: Qantas

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Qantas Airways will not be able to operate any of its Airbus A380s profitably on the Sydney-Los Angeles route if it uses its existing Rolls-Royce Trent 900 powerplants, says the carrier in a statement of claim against the engine manufacturer.

The carrier, which has filed a claim in the Federal Court of Australia, says each A380 would be able to carry only 80 passengers, instead of the typical 450, on the route due to thrust limitations on the engines.

Qantas filed the claim almost a month after one of its A380s experienced an uncontained engine failure on 4 November, resulting in an emergency landing at Singapore. The court has granted the carrier an injunction, which allows it to pursue legal action against R-R if a commercial settlement is not possible.

Qantas alleges that it was advised by R-R to not use any "mod B" or "mod C" Trent 900 engines if they had been operated more than 75 times at the maximum thrust level of 72,000lb (320kN).

R-R, which recommended measures to "minimise the severity of engine operation", allegedly told the carrier that earlier "mod A" engines should not be utilised at all. The Trent 900 engine that experienced the uncontained failure was an "A mod" powerplant, according to Qantas.

To keep to the thrust limitations, the carrier would have to ensure that its A380 aircraft carries a payload of no more than 30,000kg (66,080lb) if departing Los Angeles International Airport on runway 25L, or 20,000kg if departing the shorter 24L runway.

This would make it "uncommercial" for Qantas to operate its Trent 900-powered A380s on the route as "operation at that reduced level involves a reduction in carrying capacity such that typically only 80 passengers will be able to be transported", says the airline.

Before the 4 November incident prompted a grounding of six-strong Qantas' A380 fleet, a typical A380 flight operating from Los Angeles to Sydney or Melbourne carried up to 450 passengers and freight, it adds.

Qantas alleges that R-R may have been "misleading or deceptive" in its representations when it proposed its Trent 900 powerplant to the carrier, claiming the engine manufacturer "ought to have known and understood that the most important aspect of the A380 aircraft economics was the payload that the A380 aircraft would be able to carry on the LAX routes".

R-R says: "We continue to work closely with Qantas on operational and commercial matters but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

FLINK: Follow the Qantas Trent 900 failure at flightglobal.com/a380enginefailure