Qantas has announced wide-ranging cuts to its international services as a result of the continued spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 into Europe and the USA over the last few weeks, in addition to its continued spread across Asia, which the airline says is causing a significant drop in travel demand.
“In the past fortnight we’ve seen a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues.
“We expect lower demand to continue for the next several months, so rather than taking a piecemeal approach we’re cutting capacity out to mid-September. This improves our ability to reduce costs as well as giving more certainty to the market, customers and our people.
“We retain the flexibility to cut further or to put capacity back in as this situation develops.” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce
A380s to be grounded
As part of the cuts, Qantas will ground eight of its 12 Airbus A380 jets until mid-September 2020. With two of the aircraft currently undergoing cabin refit work to the latest products, that will leave only a single pair of the airline’s largest aircraft in service.
Many routes will see Boeing 787s operating instead, which have 250 fewer seats than the Airbus A380s and do not feature a First Class cabin.
In addition to the A380s, service reductions and capacity cuts for the group (including Jetstar) will mean effectively grounding a further 30 aircraft across the combined fleets.
Singapore – London suspended, Sydney and Melbourne flights reduced
One of the biggest parts of this news for our readers is that Qantas will suspend its daily QF1/2 Singapore – London – Singapore service from 20th April 2020 until mid-September 2020.
This flight will instead operate to London via Perth, while also downgauging to a Boeing 787-9. During this period there will therefore be two Perth – London – Perth flights each day, with the airline temporarily bypassing its Asian hub.
At this stage, Qantas plans to reinstate the usual QF1/2 service back through Singapore in mid-September 2020.
The airline’s second daily Singapore – Melbourne service (QF38), operated by an Airbus A330, will also be cut from 20th April 2020, while the early evening Boeing 787 QF36 Singapore – Melbourne flight will be replaced with a larger Airbus A330 from 4th May 2020.
The QF36 flight was previously downgauged from an Airbus A380 in the last round of capacity cuts.
|Singapore – Melbourne Capacity|
|Dates||Seats/wk||Change vs. normal|
|Until 9 Mar||5,467||—|
|9 Mar – 29 Mar||4,873||-10.9%|
|30 Mar – 19 Apr||3,731||-31.8%|
|20 Apr – 3 May||1,652||-69.8%|
|From 4 May||2,079||-62.0%|
As you can see this summer there will be less than half the usual number of seats available on Qantas flights from Singapore to Melbourne, compared with the originally planned flight schedule.
With the A380 no longer flying via Singapore to and from London, Singapore – Sydney flights will also reduce to a single daily Airbus A330 service (QF82) from 22nd April 2020.
Daily A330 Singapore – Perth and Singapore – Brisbane flights are currently unaffected by the announcement.
Singapore First Lounge to temporarily close
From 20th April 2020 with the significant cut in capacity through Singapore, the suspension of A380 services and therefore the removal of First Class through the city, Qantas has also announced that the Qantas First Lounge in Singapore (see our review) will close temporarily.
That’s of course disappointing for our readers, many of whom have yet to experience the excellent new facility, which we rate as one of the best First Class lounges at the airport.
Customers will instead be invited to use the adjacent Qantas Business Lounge. This was recently expanded and can now accommodate almost 600 guests, which should be more than sufficient once the reduction in capacity through Changi takes effect.
In fact with less than half the usual passenger volumes for Qantas through Singapore, and a complete withdrawal of the A380 service to London, we expect the single lounge facility to be quiet throughout the usual evening peak period.
See our recent detailed review of the expanded facility to learn what to expect from this lounge, which features a tended bar, made-to-order food dishes and 20 shower suites.
Luckily oneworld passengers still have other options at Changi too, with the British Airways lounge (open 3pm to 11pm) and the brand new Qatar Premium Lounge (open 5.25pm to 2am) both offering afternoon / evening opening periods ideal for Qantas passengers.
The new Qatar Singapore Premium Lounge is your best bet here, though do note you’ll have to be flying Qantas Business Class in order to use it. Access by frequent flyer status alone is not sufficient.
USA flights are also cut
Qantas also announced a postponement of its upcoming non-stop Brisbane to Chicago flights, while some other Australia – USA routes will see suspensions (like Brisbane to San Francisco) or smaller aircraft types used (like Sydney to Dallas).
Jetstar Asia to cut capacity by 40%
In other news from the Qantas Group, Singapore-based Jetstar Asia will cut flight frequencies by nearly 40%, including a suspension of its Singapore to Taipei and Osaka services.
Seven of the airline’s 18 aircraft will be grounded during the summer.
What if your flight is affected?
Qantas says that affected customers will be contacted in the coming week, either by the airline or their travel agent.
“Typically, customers flying internationally will be offered an alternative flight via another capital city or a partner airline, or an alternative day.” Qantas
Qantas and Jetstar are also waiving change fees for new international bookings made from today (10th March 2020) until the end of March 2020, for travel commencing up to 30th June 2020.
Cost reduction measures
In additional cost reduction measures, Qantas has announced that there will be no annual management bonuses for this financial year. The CEO himself will also take no salary for the remainder of the financial year through 30th June 2020, and Group Executive Management will take a 30 per cent pay cut.
Qantas and Jetstar employees will also be asked to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying activity.
A significant cut in capacity for Qantas at Singapore Changi Airport from April 2020 until at least mid-September 2020 will see the temporary suspension of the airline’s Asia – London link.
A First Class cabin will also cease to be offered, and the airline’s newest lounge facility at Changi – the Singapore First Lounge – will be temporarily closed.
Overall the group is suspending nearly a quarter of its international capacity, making this one of the biggest changes announced by the major airlines lately, especially for services through Singapore which see over 50% fewer seats offered per week compared to usual.
For full details, see the Qantas press release.
(Cover Photo: Qantas)