Qantas announced its annual financial results in Sydney today. The airline posted a healthy profit before tax of AUD$1.4bn. This is a sharp turnaround in fortunes for Qantas after it reported a record loss of AUD$2.8bn three years ago. Much of the turnaround has been achieved through a restructuring of its international network.
In Europe, Qantas suspended twice daily services from London Heathrow to Sydney via Singapore and Bangkok and to Melbourne via Singapore and Hong Kong in favour of daily services to Sydney and Melbourne via Dubai under a joint-venture with Emirates.
Whilst Qantas seemed to be in retreat in Europe having ceded much market share to the “Big Three” Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways), its interest has reignited of late. Qantas is due to launch non-stop flights to Perth in March 2018. Qantas is also due to open a new lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 3 this year.
Qantas has also today given a firm expression of interest in launching non-stop flights between London and Sydney by 2022.
Qantas has tasked aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing to produce new aircraft under development, the Airbus A350 Ultra Long Range and the Boeing 777X respectively, with sufficient range to operate London to Sydney non-stop with no restrictions on passenger loads.
Qantas claim that a non-stop flight between London and Sydney could shave four hours off the journey time.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce commented:
“From next year we’ll be flying direct from Perth to London, which is a huge leap forward. We believe advances in technology in the next few years will make Sydney to London direct a possibility and Qantas is well placed to be the airline to do it.
“Any aircraft purchase would have to meet strict financial thresholds, but these direct flights would be revolutionary for air travel in Australia.”
Airlines do not ordinarily give away commercial decisions on route launches away years in advance, and this is a very public message aimed squarely at aircraft manufacturers to sharpen their pencils.
It is also axiomatic that the viability of non-stop flights from London to Sydney will depend on how non-stop flights to Perth are received, both in terms of cabin comfort and whether passengers, particularly those at the front of the aircraft, are willing to pay a premium for non-stop services.
Personally, we would love to see non-stop flights to Sydney and for Qantas to rebuild its presence in London back to four flights a day.
Also today, Qantas announced a refurbishment of its Airbus A380 fleet which will include new business class and premium economy cabins and “refreshed” First Class and economy cabins.