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Qantas plans its return to Singapore and London without A380s in 2021

Qantas is planning a return to Singapore from July 2021. What does it mean for cabin products, lounges, and is it even realistic?

It’s been some time, over nine months in fact, since a Qantas aircraft with passengers on board has departed from Singapore Changi Airport. That was on the evening of 25th March 2020, when QF52 took off for Brisbane, around 20 minutes after QF36 made its last Melbourne departure and around an hour after QF72 had set course for Perth.

The last Qantas Airbus A380 to depart from Changi was a couple of days earlier to Sydney, on 23rd March 2020.

Qantas Airbus A380s haven’t been seen at Changi Airport since March 2020. (Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)

The airline hasn’t been totally vacant from the airport since then however, with regular Airbus A330 cargo-only services, joining other carriers including SIA in helping to keep Singapore well stocked with a variety of essential produce.

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Passenger services have continued to be suspended of course, with Australia’s borders under tight restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flights are planned from July 2021

Qantas has loaded a range of services from July 2021, including Singapore flights, as it plans a return to its international long-haul network during the second half of the year.

These flights were originally scheduled to restart in March 2021, with the exception of the QF1/2 Singapore-London extension, which has been brought forward from October 2021.

The airline has provisionally rostered a return to all five of its regular routes from Changi, which are now available for booking, as shown below.

Brisbane

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF52 SIN2030 – BNE0600* 330 Daily
QF51 BNE1150 – SIN1800 330 Daily

* Next day

London

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF1 SIN2345 – LHR0635* 789 Daily
QF2 LHR2105 – SIN1725* 789 Daily

* Next day

Melbourne

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF36 SIN2015 – MEL0535* 789 Daily
QF35 MEL1215 – SIN1815 789 Daily

* Next day

Perth

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF72 SIN1150 – PER1720 330 Daily
QF71 PER1840 – SIN2350 330 Daily

Sydney

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
QF2 SIN1930 – SYD0510* 789 Daily
QF82 SIN2110 – SYD0655* 330 Daily
QF81 SYD1005 – SIN1650 330 Daily
QF1 SYD1555 – SIN2215 789 Daily

* Next day

As you can see there are some aircraft type swaps compared to the usual Qantas schedule, with the airline’s 12 Airbus A380s stored in either Victorville (10) or Los Angeles (2). Boeing 787-9s are mostly taking their place on the Singapore network.

All 12 Qantas Airbus A380s are stored in California, USA. (Photo: Felipe Sanchez / Shutterstock)

This includes the airline’s daily Sydney – Singapore – London ‘Kangaroo Route’, which like the Melbourne – Perth – London service will be operated by the Dreamliner.

Here’s how the capacity of Qantas aircraft looks for comparison between the aircraft types.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is QFtrans.png A332 A333 B789 A388
First 14
Business 27 / 28 28 42 70
Premium
Economy
28 60
Economy 224 / 243 269 166 341
Total 251 / 271 297 236 485

As you can see, introduction of the (physically) larger Boeing 787-9 rather than the Airbus A330 is actually a total capacity reduction (-20% vs. the A330-300), though that’s because the Dreamliner has a much larger Business Class section (+50%) in the Qantas fit, which if anything is good news for award space in this cabin.

While the schedule is loaded from 1st July 2021, the exact start date and flight frequency for each route is subject to change, mostly hinging on international border restrictions, not least those in Australia, which remain outside the airline’s control.

What it means for Business Class

With Qantas currently planning only Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s on flights from Singapore, it’s the popular Thompson Vantage XL seat to look forward to in Business Class.

Qantas Business Class. (Photo: Qantas)

These forward-facing seats are in a staggered 1-2-1 arrangement, with direct aisle access for all. Each seat reclines into a flat bed, with the footwell taking advantage of the space beneath the table of the seat in front, except at bulkhead rows where there is a wider recess.

An earlier version of this seat is installed on the airline’s Airbus A330s (both the -200 and -300 series), which you can tell apart by their lighter wood finish and fixed dividers between the middle seat pairs.

Business Class on the Qantas Airbus A330. (Photo: Qantas)

On the newer Boeing 787s, a more refined colour scheme with darker wood tones was chosen, and for couples travelling together the privacy divider is retractable for a more sociable experience, but otherwise the seat products are identical.

Boeing 787 Business Class seats have a retractable divider between the middle pair. (Image: Qantas)

As mentioned above, there are 50% more Business Class seats fitted to the Qantas Boeing 787-9 aircraft than to the Airbus A330s.

What else did the A380s have?

Qantas passengers will miss out on the airline’s new Airbus A380 cabins, which first started flying through Singapore in October 2019 and were part of a refit project that, in a non-COVID world, was scheduled to have been fully completed by now.

In Business Class this featured a very similar Thompson Vantage Business Class seat anyway.

The Business Class seats on new Qantas A380s were almost identical to the newest version on the Boeing 787s. (Photo: Qantas)

What is different is that the Boeing 787s and Airbus A330s don’t have the A380’s lounge area, ideal for a mid-flight change of scenery or meeting, or to dine with a partner, friend or colleague.

This area also included a self-serve bar, and was shared with First Class passengers.

Speaking of First Class, there’s no such option on the A330s or 787s, with this 14-seat cabin exclusive to the airline’s mothballed superjumbos.

Qantas A380 First Class got a refresh in the latest update. (Photo: Qantas)

Despite its age, the Qantas First Class product is quite innovative. We’ve flown it a couple of times (see our review) and while it doesn’t boast enclosed suites or double beds, it still holds up strongly against many competitors.

This cabin, which was previously available between Singapore and Melbourne, Sydney and London, won’t make an appearance until the A380s return to the Qantas fleet, slated for 2023 at the earliest.

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Premium Economy

Qantas Boeing 787s are fitted with a 28-seat Premium Economy cabin in a 2-3-2 layout, but you won’t find this product offered on Airbus A330 flights, meaning it’s restricted to proposed London, Melbourne and Sydney flights from Singapore.

Qantas Boeing 787 Premium Economy. (Photo: Qantas)

Redemption rates

From what we can see so far, Qantas has loaded plenty of Economy and Premium Economy Class award space on these flights to and from Singapore in the second half of 2021, but we couldn’t see anything in Business Class so far (even using the airline’s own programme).

Here are the one-way redemption rates in Business Class, which will hopefully become available at a later date:


Business Class
(to/from SIN)
  Perth Sydney
Melbourne
Brisbane
London
QFF 57,000 68,400 94,900
BA 38,750 62,000 108,250
Asia 30,000 61,000 70,000
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is QRtrans.png 70,000 100,000 150,000

These compare to the following KrisFlyer saver award rates on Singapore Airlines:

  • 36,500 miles (PER)
  • 62,000 miles (SYD / MEL / BNE)
  • 92,000 miles (LHR)

As you can see, Asia Miles provides the best value in Business Class for Qantas redemptions.

Here’s how it looks in Premium Economy:


Premium Economy
(to/from SIN)
  Perth Sydney
Melbourne
London
QFF n/a 51,300 71,700
BA n/a 40,000 70,000
Asia n/a 43,000 45,000
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is QRtrans.png n/a 75,000 112,500

These compare to the following KrisFlyer saver award rates on Singapore Airlines:

  • 47,000 miles (SYD / MEL / BNE)
  • 64,500 miles (LHR)

We aren’t fans of Premium Economy (even the new glitzy Emirates version does nothing for us), but 45,000 Asia Miles flying on a oneworld carrier (i.e. Qantas or BA) from Singapore to London is actually a decent rate in this cabin!

In Economy Class you’ll pay the following rates:


Economy Class
(to/from SIN)
  Perth Sydney
Melbourne
Brisbane
London
QFF 20,300 25,200 37,600
BA 13,000 20,000 35,000
Asia 15,000 27,000 35,000
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is QRtrans.png 35,000