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The ‘Roo’ Returns on Singapore – London

More A380s to Australia starting next week, and a return for the non-stop London service, as Qantas restore their 'kangaroo route' via Singapore.

QF A380

From the day Changi opened in 1981, Qantas aircraft have always been a familiar sight at the airport. In 1984 for example, there were 23 Qantas flights each week passing through Singapore, mostly 747s on their way between Australia and Europe, or 767s running direct to smaller cities in Australia.

Times change and A330s or 737s are more commonly seen these days. Today is no exception, this evening 7 Qantas jets will land into Changi, departing again on their regular evening and overnight jaunts to major Australian cities.

One route has been missing for a while though, and it’s one which previously had decades-long history, Singapore to London Heathrow.

What Happened?

Five years ago, Qantas was on its knees financially. Bleeding cash, hampered by an inefficient workforce many of whom held management to a union-induced stranglehold, and suffering intense completion from rivals not only across Asia, but also in the Middle East.

The new ‘kangaroo route’, it seemed, was shifting to hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, and Qantas simply couldn’t keep up on cost.

A major (and unusual) strategic alliance was formed. Qantas hooked up with Middle East giant Emirates in a strategic partnership, which saw the Australian carrier’s flagship A380 aircraft re-routed through Dubai, not Singapore, on their way to London.

At the time it was pretty clear that Emirates had the upper hand in the deal, over struggling Qantas.

partnership-tails
The Emirates partnership will continue for at least another 5 years, but Qantas A380s will now fly to London via Singapore again. (Image: Qantas)

Fast-forward five years (the duration of the first agreement), and Qantas has turned its fortunes around. Cost-cutting, aggressive deals with unions, more efficient aircraft and – let’s face it – cheap fuel, have seen the airline post its highest profits ever – close to AU$1.5 billion per year.

3K-QF (MainlyMiles).JPG
Qantas also leverages on the Jetstar network at Changi. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Indeed just this week Qantas posted a profit of AU$976 million for the first 6 months of their financial year between July and December 2017.

When the Emirates deal came up for renewal, it was a different story for the UAE carrier, whose profits had been slashed year-on-year by over 80%. They blamed things like ‘Brexit'(?) for the collapse, but in reality cheap oil was decimating their home business market in Dubai.

Qantas has also maintained strong success on its Singapore – Australia routes not just from direct demand, but also through codesharing and interlining with partner and oneworld carriers, and linking with the large network of Jetstar Asia flights to and from cities across the Asia-Pacific region.

The New Schedule

The first change happens on Sunday next week – from 4th March 2018 the daily QF81/82 between Sydney and Singapore upgrades to the A380, while the later Sydney service QF5/6 flown on the A330 drops to four services per week in response.

That schedule continues until 24th March, then on 25th March the big change occurs:

  • Sydney QF81/82 returns to A330 service daily and QF1/2 commences daily A380 flights, replacing QF5/6, with daily continuation to London Heathrow.
  • Melbourne QF35/36 upgrades to A380 on daily flights, with the evening A330 service QF37/38 upgrading from three times weekly to daily.

Here’s a full copy of the schedule with the new A380 flights highlighted in yellow.

Sydney (SYD)

Current schedule – until 3rd March 2018

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF81 SYD1135 – SIN1645 330 Daily
QF82 SIN1915 – SYD0610* 330 Daily
QF5 SYD1645 – SIN2155 330 Daily
QF6 SIN2340 – SYD1040* 330 Daily

*next day

From 4th March 2018 to 24th March 2018

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF81 SYD1135 – SIN1645 388 Daily
QF82 SIN1915 – SYD0610* 388 Daily
QF5 SYD1645 – SIN2155 330 1··45·7
QF6 SIN2340 – SYD1040* 330 1··45·7

*next day

From 25th March 2018**

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF81 SYD1115 – SIN1650 330 Daily
QF82 SIN2110 – SYD0800* 330 Daily
QF1 SYD1655 – SIN2215 388 Daily
QF2 SIN1930 – SYD0610* 388 Daily

*next day
** – QF2 from 26th March 2018

Melbourne (MEL)

Current schedule – until 24th March 2018

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF35 MEL1225 – SIN1725 330 Daily
QF36 SIN1930 – MEL0605* 330 Daily
QF37 MEL1725 – SIN2225 330 ····567
QF38 SIN2355 – MEL1030* 330 ····567

*next day

From 25th March 2018

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF35 MEL1255 – SIN1755 388 Daily
QF36 SIN2015 – MEL0635* 388 Daily
QF37 MEL1715 – SIN2225 330 Daily
QF38 SIN2350 – MEL1015* 330 Daily

*next day

London (LHR)

From 25th March 2018

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF1 SIN2355 – LHR0655* 388 Daily
QF2 LHR2115 – SIN1725* 388 Daily

*next day

What can you expect on the Qantas A380?

The Qantas A380 features 14 ‘suites’ in first class, 64 seats in business, 35 in premium economy and 371 in economy.

Qantas A380 First (Qantas)
The Qantas A380 First Class. (Photo: Qantas)

First class seats are in the forward section on the main deck, business class and premium economy are on the upper deck, and the economy cabin is predominantly located on the main deck, with a small upper deck section too. There’s also a small lounge area on the upper deck.

A380 Business Lounge (The Filipino Traveler)
The Qantas A380 features an upper deck lounge area, for first and business class passengers to stretch their legs. (Photo: The Filipino Traveler)

The big difference the A380 will bring for those currently flying Qantas between Singapore and Sydney or Melbourne is the availability of premium economy and first class, both unavailable on the Qantas A330 currently flying on those routes.

Premium Economy 3 (Qantas).jpg
Premium economy is in a 2-3-2 configuration on the upper deck of the Qantas A380. (Photo: Qantas)

Otherwise, business class isn’t too much to get excited about, a rather dated 2-2-2 configuration, though it converts to a fully flat bed and has a reasonable privacy divider if you don’t know your neighbour.

QF A380 J
The 2-2-2 layout in business class on the Qantas A380 is a bit behind the times, but converts to a fully flat bed and is quite sociable for a couple travelling together. (Photo: Qantas)

The new Qantas A380 cabins

Qantas will be revamping their Airbus A380 cabin products, now nearly a decade old, between 2019 and 2020. This will include replacing the (dated) business ‘skybeds’ with their latest business class product, now installed on most of their A330s and all the new 787s.

Qantas 787 New Business (Qantas Airways)
The business class cabin on the Qantas A380 will be refitted with the same 1-2-1 direct aisle access configuration found on the new Boeing 787 aircraft, starting in 2019. (Photo: Qantas)

Premium economy also gets a makeover, with an all-new seat providing 10% more width than the existing product, which has already debuted on the Boeing 787.

QF A380 New W.jpg
The latest premium economy seats will also be fitted to the Qantas A380 by 2020. (Photo: Qantas)

At the front end, a redesigned passenger lounge will be incorporated on the upper deck, while downstairs the first class suites will get refreshed seat cushioning and a larger hi-res entertainment screen. Down the back – economy class will also get seat cushioning and entertainment system improvements.

How many points will you need?

If you’re a Qantas Frequent Flyer member, here’s what it will cost you in points to secure a one-way redemption ticket to or from Singapore on the new A380 flights by route:

Qantas redemption to/from Singapore using Qantas Points
 QFF SYD / MEL LHR
Economy 28,000 40,000
Premium Economy 45,000 63,000
Business 60,000 84,000
First 90,000 126,000

If like many of our readers you use the British Airways Avios program to accumulate miles for oneworld redemptions, here’s the Avios cost for the same routes:

Qantas redemption to/from Singapore using Avios
 BA SYD / MEL LHR
Economy 20,000 35,000
Premium Economy 26,000 70,000
Business 60,000 105,000
First 80,000 140,000

Finally, if you’re an Asia Miles member, here’s the cost using that scheme:

Qantas redemption to/from Singapore using Asia Miles
 Asia.png SYD / MEL LHR
Economy 25,000 40,000
Premium Economy 30,000 48,000
Business 45,000 70,000
First 70,000 105,000

Qantas Lounges

One thing we think Qantas does particularly well is their network of business and first class lounges. Sadly, with the possible exception of The Private Room, Singapore Airlines lounges can’t hold a candle to most Qantas lounges.

The ‘Qantas Singapore Lounge’, opened in 2014, is arguably one of the nicest business class lounges at Changi. Though we have yet to write a formal review for the blog, we have visited many times over the years and it’s certainly the ‘go-to’ oneworld option in T1. Here’s a recent review of the lounge.

QF Singapore Lounge (Qantas)
The Qantas Singapore Lounge includes a live cooking station with cook to order dishes. (Photo: Qantas)

Australian cities have well-rated Qantas first and business class lounges, as you would expect, including their flagship international first class lounge at Sydney airport, while at London Heathrow they have just opened their latest shared business and first class lounge facility, featuring a signature gin bar.

QF London Lounge (Qantas)
The new Qantas London Lounge at Heathrow. (Photo: Qantas)

At the Heathrow end, Qantas first and business class passengers and oneworld frequent flyers will also have access to the excellently-rated Cathay Pacific lounge, the reasonable American Airlines Admirals Club, and the less-well rated British Airways Galleries lounge in Terminal 3.

Other Changes

There’s a reduction in frequency for Jetstar Boeing 787 services between Singapore and Melbourne from four times per week to just two flights each week on Thursdays and Sundays from the end of March, in response to the significant capacity increase by Qantas on the same route.

Jetstar 787 Sydney (Damien Aiello)
Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar also flies 4 flights per week from Singapore to Melbourne, but this will reduce to just 2 flights per week once the A380 is back on the route. (Photo: Damien Aiello)

Qantas will also replace the daily Jetstar A320 flight between Singapore and Perth with their own 737-800, which will run twice daily from mid April.

Singapore to Brisbane is the only route where things are staying the same – a daily A330 will continue to operate.

Will it last?

As we mentioned earlier in the article, Qantas have built a very solid interline and codeshare agreement network at Changi, largely with the Jetstar network but also with Emirates and some other carriers like Bangkok Airways, Jet Airways and JAL.

Today for example, 58 flights depart Changi with a Qantas codeshare flight number, in addition to the 7 flights they operate using their own aircraft.

This gives them a wide variety of itineraries across Asia to offer passengers departing from London, for example, or vice-versa. If you search for a flight from London to Phuket, Qantas can offer a fare using their A380 flight for the first sector, then a Jetstar A320 flight after that (with QF flight numbers all the way).

Unlike Singapore Airlines, they also allow these codeshare routings to be booked by passengers using their frequent flyer miles (with SIA you can’t use KrisFlyer miles if your journey involves an SQ codeshare flight operated by Scoot, only SilkAir). So if you want to fly from London to Palembang with SIA/Scoot, it’s cash or nothing.

The Straits Times spoke to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at the Singapore Airshow earlier this month, and he was positive about the long-term success of the Singapore to London route even once aircraft that can fly Sydney to London non-stop are available.

“If the Singapore-London sector works really well, supported by feeder traffic from the Jetstar Asia network, why would we withdraw the service?”

Alan Joyce – Qantas CEO

WontDitch
Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow earlier this month, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce vowed they would keep flying to London through Singapore, even after potential non-stop flights between Australia and Europe become possible in 2022. (Image: Straits Times)

Summary

The return of Qantas A380s to Singapore, including the London flights, is a welcome addition and will provide increased capacity and many more redemption options for those based here who maintain a oneworld points balance.

Once these aircraft have been re-fitted with the latest cabin products in 2020, we think it will prove an even better option.

3 comments

  1. Seems that theres loads of award space on QF35 but not on QF1 on AAdvantage. Not sure if Qantas updated their award space on that platform yet.

    1. If you’re looking at SIN-SYD or SIN-LHR on QF1/2 this will always be the case unfortunately. The vast majority of the capacity on that flight is reserved for those flying all the way SYD-LHR or vice-versa. That was certainly the case when QF last operated the route.

      As QF35/36 is a terminating flight in SIN, availability will always be much better on that one.

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