Qantas CEO says Perth-London Heathrow flights prove western hub concept

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Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND operating the inaugural QF9 between Perth and London Heathrow. (Victor Pody)

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce {says the|according to the} first year of operations for the airline’ s nonstop Perth-London Heathrow service has proven the concept of a Western hub for nonstop flights between Australia and Europe.

The world’ s third-longest nonstop flight by distance recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, having commenced on March 23 2018 when Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND operated the inaugural QF9 from Perth and landed at London Heathrow some 17 hours later.

Figures released by Qantas on Tuesday showed that in the 10 months between April 1 2018 and January 31 2019, the QF9/10 operation carried 134, 735 passengers – 67, 298 {on the|around the|within the} outbound QF9 and 67, 437 on the inbound QF10.

The flights achieved average load factors – an industry term for how full the flights are – of 93 per cent and 95 {per cent|%|percent}, respectively.

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VIDEO: A look at Qantas’ s inaugural flight from Perth to London Heathrow

A Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by Qantas noted passenger load factors on comparable flights between Australia and the United Kingdom ranged from 83 per cent to 86 {per cent|%|percent}, based on Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) data.

Perth-London Heathrow represents something of a beachhead for Qantas, with the success of the flight potentially spawning new nonstop services from Perth – described by the airline {as its|as the} new western hub – to other points on the European continent.

Joyce, who was in Perth on Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of QF9/10, said the first year of QF9/10 showed that {having a|using a|possessing a} hub in Western Australia connecting Australia to the world was working really well.

“ We have people coming from the east coast {to join|to participate|to sign up} the flight and it’ s made it a lot easier {for people|for individuals|for folks} in Europe to visit Australia, ” Joyce said {in a|inside a|within a} statement.

“ How much we grow {the opportunity|the chance|the ability} from here depends on all stakeholders working together. ”

Qantas staff farewell the inaugural QF10 London-Perth departure. (Qantas)

Qantas staff farewell the inaugural QF10 London-Perth departure. (Qantas)

The timing any additional Qantas nonstop flights from Perth to Europe would depend on how Qantas manages its 787-9 fleet, which currently sits at eight aircraft and is expected to grow to 14 by the end of 2020.

Those additional six aircraft will lead to the withdrawal {of the|from the|in the} Boeing 747-400/400ER fleet .

Then there the current dispute with Perth Airport, {which has|that has|which includes} launched legal action against Qantas in December to recover {what it|what} said were $11 million in unpaid aeronautical charges from Qantas. The airline had described the airport’ s new pricing structure as “ unjustified”

Earlier in 2018, Qantas dropped plans to operate seasonal services from Perth to Johannesburg after being unable to reach an agreement over terminal access. Negotiations with Qantas {to operate|to work|to use} the Perth-London Heathrow nonstop flight from its Terminal 3/4 precinct were also hard fought.

The airport and airline are also continuing to negotiate over the terms of relocating all of Qantas’ s operations at Perth Airport to an expanded international and domestic terminal precinct.

Qantas’ s 787-9s feature 236 seats comprising 42 in business class in a 1-2-1 configuration offering direct aisle access {for every|for each|for each and every} passenger, 28 in premium economy laid out 2-3-2 across and 166 in economy in a 3-3-3 layout with 32in seat pitch and 17. 2in seat width.

Some 30 per cent of seats {on the|around the|within the} 787-9 are in business or premium economy, the highest percentage of any of aircraft {type in|enter|key in} the Qantas fleet.

By contrast, Qantas’ s Airbus A380s that previously operated the daily Melbourne-Dubai-London Heathrow rotation that was withdrawn in favour of 787-9 Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow have 484 seats. The change of route {has meant|means} 248 seats per flight were removed from the market {each day|every day|daily}.

In terms of where travellers were headed, the report said 50. 1 per cent of passengers {travelling to|visiting|going to} London on QF9 began their journey in Perth, followed by Melbourne at 24. 6 per cent and Sydney at 6. 8 {per cent|%|percent}.

It was {a similar|an identical|the same} story for those arriving in Perth on QF10, with 51. 3 per cent of passengers staying in Perth, 23. 5 per cent flying onwards to Melbourne and 10. 7 per cent going to Sydney.

Further, Qantas said about 60 {per cent|%|percent} of passengers on the London-Perth leg were from Australia, with residents of the {United Kingdom|Uk|British isles} making up 31 per cent

The airline said there had been a 30 per cent increase in the total {number of|quantity of|amount of} passengers travelling between Australia and London via Perth, including a seven per cent {increase in|embrace} visitors from the United Kingdom {travelling to|visiting|going to} Perth.

Inflows to Perth Airport before travelling outbound to London on Qantas flight the QF9. (Deloitte Access Economics/Qantas)

Inflows to Perth Airport before travelling outbound to London on Qantas flight the QF9. (Deloitte Access Economics/Qantas)

Outflows from Perth Airport after arriving from London on Qantas flight QF10. (Deloitte Access Economics/ Qantas)

Outflows from Perth Airport after arriving from London on Qantas flight QF10. (Deloitte Access Economics/ Qantas)

Joyce said the Perth-London Heathrow service had exceeded expectations.

“ Almost every flight is full and it turned {a profit|money} almost immediately, which is rare for new services because they have start-up costs and it {normally takes|usually takes} time to build demand, ” Joyce said in a statement.

“ {The work|The task|The job} we put into managing passenger jetlag and designing {a comfortable|an appropriate} cabin has paid off. It’ s the longest flight on our entire network {but it|however it|nonetheless it} has the highest level of {customer satisfaction|client satisfaction}. ”

Operationally, Qantas said the quickest QF9 flight completed the journey from Perth to London Heathrow in 16 hours and 19 minutes, 61 minutes quicker {than the|compared to|compared to the} scheduled journey time of 17 hours and 20 minutes thanks to favourable winds {and the|as well as the|plus the} airline’ s flight planning system.

Similarly, the quickest flight on QF10 was 15 hours and 15 minutes, well below the flight’ s block time of 16 hours and 45 minutes.

“ Despite {all the|all of the|each of the} complicated logistics and technical challenges, there have been only been four cancelled flights {out of|from|away from} 720 planned services {for a|for any|to get a} reliability rating of 99. 5 per cent, ” Joyce added.

“ That’ s a credit to the literally hundreds of Qantas people behind the scenes involved in making everything work smoothly. ”

The Deloitte Access Economics report said the London Heathrow flight led to a $101. 4 million economic contribution, or spending by visitors, {to the|towards the|for the} West Australian economy.

“ International passengers stayed an average of 22. 2 nights in Perth and 5. 9 nights in rest of WA, spending approximately $88 and $66 {per night|every night}, respectively, ” the report said.

Some highlights of the Qantas Perth-London Heathrow nonstop flight. (Qantas)

Some highlights {of the|from the|in the} Qantas Perth-London Heathrow nonstop flight. (Qantas)