With travel restrictions grounding airlines and closing airports all across the world, there are some unusual flight routings emerging.
Qantas has now created a brand new route linking Darwin to London Heathrow on the Airbus a380 superjumbo, however, it will be operating its last flight today. Qantas’ “Kangaroo Route” that has historically linked Sydney and London had previously stopped through Singapore, but with borders closing on the island nation, Qantas routed the flight through Darwin in the Northern Territories for a fuel stop before continuing the near 17-hour journey to London to allow residents to return home.
After the A380 arrives back in Sydney on March 28 Qantas will be grounding its entire fleet of 132 aircraft until the end of May.
Many countries have closed their borders entirely, with others only allowing repatriation of citizens and residents which has played a significant role in airlines slashing international flights.
Last week Air Tahiti Nui historically operated the world’s longest domestic flight from Paris to Papeete in French Polynesia on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. With Tahiti being part of France, the direct flight that clocked in at over 15 hours was far longer than the current longest domestic flight between Boston and Honolulu that takes around 11 hours 45 minutes.
The reason for the unusual routing was because flights from the EU to the U.S. were banned, and therefore the prior stop in Los Angeles was shelved. Since this unique flight, Air Tahiti Nui is now operating the flight through Vancouver.
With travel restrictions still tightening around the world, Qatar Airways announced yesterday that they too will be reintroducing their A380 superjumbo on certain routes to meet increased demand and repatriate citizens. Services to Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Perth have all been reinstated with an A380 with the Doha-based airline flying 100,000 citizens back home during the last seven days.
The A380 is the world’s largest passenger aircraft, however, with Airbus stopping production of the double-decker plane in 2021 due to waning demand, we can expect to see some airlines retiring their older and particularly larger aircraft sooner than planned. Lufthansa has already hinted that their A380 fleet may be grounded for the foreseeable future and the Dutch airline KLM has been touted to be retiring its last Boeing 747 jumbo jets by April.
Virgin Atlantic has also announced that they will now be retiring their remaining A340-600 aircraft earlier than planned. The world’s longest four-engined aircraft had previously seen its life span extended to meet increasing demand, however, the jets have now been retired earlier than their original May timescale.