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Qantas Airways is operated as part of the publicly listed Qantas Group. It is the national airline of Australia with major hubs in Sydney and Melbourne and secondary hubs in Perth and Brisbane. Utilising a large fleet of narrow and wide-body Airbus and Boeing aircraft, Qantas operates an extensive domestic and international network, with services to New Zealand, the Americas, Asia, South Africa and Europe. Regional services are provided by subsidiary, QantasLink. Qantas is a founding member of the oneworld alliance.
Location of Qantas Airways main hub (Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport)
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The A380 is once again under media scrutiny, despite there being no major movement on the type. Comments from Air France and Qantas about not taking further A380s have long been assumed, and it has been apparent that Malaysia Airlines does not even have the need for its A380s. Singapore Airlines not renewing the lease on its first A380 is hardly surprising, and offers no definitive conclusion about the A380 or second-hand market; early A380s had different production and are not as efficient as later models. The lack of movement on the A380neo continues to irk the model's largest customer by far, Emirates, and may not make for a productive relationship as Emirates weighs an A350 or 787 order.
For most, the A380 continues to fly. How and where it flies is changing. Flights to and from the Middle East are becoming more common as Gulf airlines, and mostly Emirates, take delivery of A380s. A further shift to the Middle East is inevitable. In Japan there has been a near exodus of A380s; airlines dropping the type as they moved from Narita to Haneda, which cannot accommodate the A380 during the day, and Singapore Airlines down-gauging. Intra-Asia flying is decreasing – notable given the growth of A380s based in the region. Services by the A380 to Australia are growing, perhaps as it becomes an easy market for airlines to redeploy capacity amid European security concerns and trans-Pacific overcapacity.
For an airline that is not large, Air New Zealand has been remarkably successful, now, notably in FY2016. It has selectively established helpful partnerships and, elsewhere, largely remained under the radar. It has excelled at marketing, and at market positioning.
But its home country is no longer the secret – or as inaccessible as – it used to be. That is a growing challenge for Air New Zealand, which for years has quietly and effectively exploited the limited competition. Two new entrants to Auckland in the North American market, and more nonstop capacity from North America to Australia – a 6th freedom staple for Air NZ, will elevate the threats. In the peak summer Chinese airlines will have one third as much capacity into New Zealand as Air NZ has long haul capacity to the world. The New Zealand government has considered granting fifth freedom rights for unserved routes. Domestically, Jetstar is challenging Air NZ on select regional routes.
Qantas on 24-Aug-2016 delivered its second consecutive AUD1 billion annual profit, indicating that the long restructuring under the tenure of CEO Alan Joyce has not only worked but created a stronger Qantas. The group has weathered the boom and bust of the Australian resource economy and times with Asian LCC JVs; has turned Gulf and Chinese competitors into partners; and has risen above a key competitor's influx of foreign shareholding, which fuelled an unsustainable capacity and product war.
The question for Qantas is what next. Domestic has returned to a comfortable duopoly and growth is on the wane, while international partners will contribute higher growth by putting passengers onto the domestic Qantas network. Loyalty, a stable business, is growing and profitable but does not capture Mr Joyce's passion. Internationally, North America is Qantas' anchor. The continent accounts for one third of Qantas' now profitable international capacity. Qantas and its proposed partner American Airlines dominate, holding 42% of the Australia/New Zealand-North America market. It is a profitable but not very emotional business, although it could move to new 787-9 routes to Dallas or Chicago. Where Qantas remains strategically keen is to Asia and Europe, where its historical deficiency helped rivals Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific to rise to their powerhouse status.
The competition with SIA and Cathay is longstanding but reinvigorated: SIA has reiterated its desire to operate between Australia and the US, while Qantas blames Cathay for squashing the proposed LCC Jetstar Hong Kong. Qantas may not be able to beat SIA and Cathay entirely, but for the first time in its history Qantas believes it can compete with them on cost. Qantas seeks mainline and Jetstar growth to and within Asia. Qantas is weighing a European restructuring that could result in the launch of 787-9 flights between Perth and London – the first nonstop flight between Australia and Europe. Qantas may not be as big as it used to be, but it is smarter, more agile and more profitable. Qantas has evolved, but its competitors appear less stable. This is a time to seize momentum and rebuild Qantas' flagship status.
A common theme in the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit 2016 in Brisbane on 4 and 5-Aug-2016 was opportunities in Australia’s international market. Australia is experiencing rapid inbound and outbound growth, opening up opportunities for airports, local airlines and foreign airlines.
Australia-China in particular is a market in the spotlight following 22% growth in inbound visitors from China in 2015. However, there are also opportunities to develop new routes to other Asian countries and the more mature markets in Europe and North America, driven partially by new aircraft technology.
The Summit attracted over 40 airlines and 40 airports. Jetstar Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce opened both days of the summit with stimulating keynote addresses to over 400 delegates.
As airlines have embraced dual brand strategies to reach full service and low cost growth aviation IT has responded, as seen with Amadeus' acquisition of Navitaire, which mostly but not exclusively powered the passenger service systems (PSS) of LCCs. In the first six months since the deal closed Navitaire has added 230m passengers boarded, to Amadeus Altea's 393m. Navitaire passengers account for 37% of Amadeus' total.
Having significantly grown its market share, and with past LCC product forays not having worked out, Amadeus receives a new business stream. Some Navitaire customers (Ryanair, AirAsia, IndiGo) are larger than Altea customers and have high growth ahead of them. A second benefit is the Navitaire acquisition supporting Altea customers. By owning both products Amadeus can improve connectivity between Altea and Navitaire airlines. Most of Altea's large customers – Lufthansa, IAG, AF-KLM, Qantas and JAL – have an LCC operating Navitaire software. Of Navitaire's passengers – 35% are on airlines that are LCC units of full service airlines. Other airlines may be holding out on pursuing partnerships and connectivity until there is a cheaper, simpler and streamlined way.
It may seem that the Amadeus-Navitaire marriage is about full service and low cost segments, but its greatest strength is the role it will have in the hybrid segment. Hybridity is growing, and Amadeus-Navitaire could galvanise further expansion.
The nature of the South Pacific's geography makes finding the right partners for its airlines essential for their survival in international long haul markets – as most are.
The region is characterised by relatively liberal access regimes and by partnerships of varying levels – in New Zealand especially, where Air New Zealand’s international network is dominated by JVs. Virgin Australia has built a ‘virtual alliance’ alongside HNA, Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Delta, with very little of its own metal flying outside Australia. At Qantas Group, international performance has improved markedly following its Emirates partnership, as its operating focus has shifted from Europe toward Asia and North America, with local JVs, and close partnerships with American Airlines and China Eastern continuing to grow and mature.
For all airlines in the region, the China market will define much of the growth over the coming decade. (This report is taken from the Jul/Aug-2016 issue of CAPA's Airline Leader)