Qantas A380 Grounding Causes Disruption, What Should You Do?

By now you all know that a Qantas A380 had an engine failure last week that caused enough concern that the airline grounded the entire fleet. Here we are on Monday and the fleet is still not flying, so a lot of people are stuck, waiting for Qantas to get its act together. The airline isn’t giving much information, so the best advice to give is this . . . have patience.

In case you haven’t seen it, one of the engines on the A380 had what’s called an uncontained failure, meaning that pieces came out of the engine and threatened other parts of the airplane. While some flew harmlessly to the ground, others shot up and punctured the wing. Take a look:

As you can imagine, that’s not good. But the airplane flew just fine, the crew dumped fuel, and everyone was safe in the end. Still, there was something so concerning to Qantas that it decided to ground the entire fleet. It remains grounded today and Qantas has apparently found more problems on other airplanes so it could be a few more days.

If you’re booked on an A380, what should you do? Well, keep an eye on flight status updates on the Qantas website. Those seem to be accurate, but just because the flight is running doesn’t mean you’ll actually be on it.

I was trying to help someone this weekend who had flown from Chicago to LA, ready to connect to an A380 on Thursday night after the incident. When she arrived, she was told her flight would be going 24 hours later, and they would put her up for the night. She tried to get more information by calling Qantas, but the wait times were excessively long and she gave up. She went for her flight the next day but when she got there, she was told she wouldn’t be going.

See, the A380 is the largest airplane in the Qantas fleet, so when they find a 747 to substitute for it, they can’t get everyone on that airplane. Apparently they never bothered to tell this to the person I was helping, and when she showed up, they said she wasn’t on it and had no idea when she would be going. Very helpful, right?

Things were a bit more complicated for her, because she was on a codeshare with American Airlines. She had the American confirmation number but not the Qantas one. So if you’re flying, make sure you have the Qantas confirmation number so you can look up your status online. That undoubtedly could have saved some trips to the airport for some people.

If you’re hoping for more specific updates from Qantas, you’re probably out of luck. The only thing Qantas has done on Facebook is link to its website. The @QantasUSA Twitter account has had limited information, but it took more than 24 hours before Qantas even started responding to people via that channel. Your best bet is probably to just rely on what you find on the Qantas website. If you’re feeling stranded, we can, of course, help you via Cranky Concierge.

It’s unfortunate that Qantas’ response has left a lot to be desired here. With any luck, the airplanes will be back in the air within the next week, but we don’t know that for sure just yet. And what if you’re flying an A380 on another airline?

At this point, it looks like the issue is engine-related. Qantas uses a Rolls-Royce engine on its A380s, and Singapore is the only other airline that uses that engine. So if you’re flying on a Singapore A380, you have nothing to worry about just yet. The airline has inspected its airplanes and continues to fly them. But if something is found that requires immediate assistance, it could cause disruptions. On the other hand, if you’re on Emirates, Lufthansa, or Air France, those airlines use different engines and should be unaffected. My mistake, Lufthansa also uses the Rolls engines, however it has very few and likely has the ability to substitute other aircraft without nearly as much pain.


41 Responses to Qantas A380 Grounding Causes Disruption, What Should You Do?

  1. Hermann says:

    LH also has the RR engine as far as I know. However, both SQ and LH have the Trent 970 whereas Qantas has a higher powered Trent 972 which it is the only airline to use.

    Any idea if this may affect the RR equipped 787?

    • CF says:

      Yes, my mistake. Thanks for the correction. Lufthansa does have the RR and I’ve fixed the post. Lufthansa and Singapore are stepping up checks. The good news for Lufthansa travelers is that there are so few A380s compared to the long haul fleet size that Lufthansa is likely able to put spares on to affected routes with minimal impact.

    • CF says:

      Oops, forgot to answer that last part. The Trent 1000 is on the 787, and it has already had problems of its own including a recent uncontained failure. Could they be related? I suppose, but I don’t know that yet. There’s no question that they need to look at that engine further, of course.

  2. Bobber says:

    Qantas CEO just reported finding unacceptable oil leaks from three A380s which might be partially involved in the engine issue.

    Hermann – hope your statement regarding 970 vs 972 turns out to be true!

  3. If I remember right, Quantas outsourced all their maintenance needs a couple years ago. Could be related…maybe not.

    • Bobber says:

      Thought they were outsourced to Lufthansa and RR – these should be credible engineers (you would have thought……).

      • consumer12 says:

        Lufthansa Maintenance does airframe and everything else; engines are responsibility of RR technicians and inspected by their personnel. Quantas is angling for compensation from RR in this case; that should tell you everything you need to know.

  4. caboolture says:

    Actually I think both Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa use the RR Trent 900 design on their A380s; reports today indicate that “…both cleared their A380s to fly again after inspections that took less than 24 hours”.

  5. caboolture says:

    And to @Smiling Paul and the person who made the Youtube video, a gentle correction: it’s Qantas, with no U. It’s an acronym for “Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services”.

  6. M. Kluth says:

    Most interesting that you still maintain that Lufthansa is NOT using the RR engine. They are. This should not happen on a site like yours. On the other hand, it is an American site.

    • CF says:

      Attention Cranky readers. I have some amazing news. M. Kluth has apparently never made a mistake. Let’s all congratulate him/her on his/her accomplishment.

    • David Z says:

      This should not happen on a site like yours. On the other hand, it is an American site.

      And this has to do with…what exactly? Can you kindly enlighten us fallible mortals?

    • Congrats M. Kluth on never making a mistake! May we all endeavor toward your level of perfection.

      • M. Kluth says:

        Ah, I guess you didn’t read it. I said mistakes yes, repeats no, if at all possible. And you are so very right. If we all strive more for perfection, perhaps to the level of some country like Denmark, those evil socialists (sorry, Denmark, you were the first to came to mind, especially since you always seem to end at the top of all kinds of surveys), perhaps Mars probes would no longer crash because we do not understand metric, printer cartridges would not be banned, it might be worth to buy a Detroit car again (now that FIAT owns Chrysler, perhaps), and they might just not hate us any longer. Plus, all this has absolutely nothing to do with crancy’s blog, or any blog. More with the Comedy Store. Perhaps it is a good idea to always point a finger at oneself first.

        • David Z says:

          Perhaps it is a good idea to always point a finger at oneself first.

          Besides, change begins with one’s self, yes? :)

          • M. Kluth says:

            Yes, indeed. If you have a close look: been there, done that. To quote myself:

            Written by M. Kluth on November 8, 2010. Reply

            Mistakes, yes. Consistent mistakes in a row, no.

            If that is too difficult to grasp, to understand, or to follow, I am quite willing, for your benefit, to take a remedial class in English, which is a second language to me anyway, and could always be improved upon, as I have been accused, to perfection. I am easy, you know, but not cheap…

    • ASarkiss says:

      We must all strive to be as good as M. Kluth, especially if we are Americans! I wish I was as good as he. Maybe one day. Do I dare be as good?

  7. Oliver says:

    Shouldn’t stranded Qantas passengers insist on getting put on other airlines flying the routes that Qantas has problems with?

    • CF says:

      Sure, it’s worth trying, but so far that has been a tough thing to do because flights are full. There just aren’t that many options down to Australia from the US – you have Delta, V Australia, and United nonstop (in addition to Qantas) along with connections via Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Air Pacific, and Hawaiian. For the person I was talking about in the post, she couldn’t find availability on another airline for a couple days.

      • Oliver says:

        United appears to still be selling economy seats (I didn’t check C/F) on tonight’s SFO-SYD and LAX-SYD flights, as well as on NZ’s SFO-AKL-SYD codeshare.

        If I was stuck, I’d do my own research, then call in and request to be put on those flights. Having status with Qantas would probably help overcome resistance.

        By the way, if Qantas balks at filling those seats with their stranded pax (because it costs them money), I’d hope that sites like this would hold their feet to the fire.

        • CF says:

          Good point. I haven’t looked today, but I imagine that it will be easier to find other flights now that we’re past the weekend. There is room on flights right now, but it was very tight over the weekend.

  8. Jason H says:

    There are discussions in the Australian news that the issue on Qantas aircraft could be because of the higher rated engine thrust used for takeoff. Qantas uses 72,000lb thrust versions of the Trent 900 while other A380s use lower thrust settings. Still that is less than the 75,000lb thrust that the engine is certified for. The engines are all the same except the engine control chip, but there is concern that the extra thrust might be causing vibration during the takeoff power loads.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/a380-take-off-may-be-the-problem/story-e6frg6nf-1225949668495

  9. Just a note: I was staying in Cranky’s backyard over the weekend on the Queen Mary. I happen to run into a English gentleman at the bar who said he was departing Saturday evening on the Quantas 380 flight. When I advised him of the engine problems he was shocked as Quantas HAD NOT contacted him about any delay or cancellation. I suggested that he contact Quantas. By the time we left the bar I don’t know if he was in condition to make the call. Quantas appears to have dropped the ball on customer care in this disaster…….

    P.S. The Marine Corp. Ball appeared to be a success!

  10. “waiting for Qantas to get its act together” Cranky, I think you are getting a bit Fox newish. Being a retired airline pilot I have gone through an emergency AD note on an engine (The Allison/Rolls Royce AE 7000 on the EMB 145). It was CHAOTIC, maintenance had to work on the engines 24/7 to keep the fleet going. Ground staff had to deal with the impact of a/c out of service. Fleet management had to get out operational limitations to the crews. Quantas did the right thing, management stepped up, made the right choice. BTW, most modern engines are never operated at full thrust normally. Max thrust is reserved for emergency use (such as engine failure at takeoff). That is one reason they last so long. Don’t know about International routes, but domestic US airlines have agreements to purchases tickets on other airlines when needed because of operational needs.

    • CF says:

      Not suggesting that Qantas needs to get its act together on the technical issue but rather on the customer service side of things. That could have been worded better.

  11. They don’t like have people stranded either, not sure why they wouldn’t be trying to reprotect passengers on other airlines. Times have changed in the airline world, decades ago they would have called you and advised which airline they put you on. Now you have to beg and they don’t care. What happen to customer service?

    FYI, the word customer has a -U- in it, not the word QANTAS.

    • I’d expect that they’d at least send an email out. And for those they don’t have an email address for? They could call them, or perhaps use a robo dialer or a repurposed telemarketing firm. It wouldn’t be as great as actual Qantas employees contacting them, but its a middle ground.

  12. Michael H says:

    Cranky: Please remove your cranium from your rectum. I’m a pax travelling thru Australia to Tokyo on Qantas, and I’m seeing first hand what losing 3000+ seats from their network is doing.

    And guess what – everything is running as smoothly as it can. Ground staff are fantastic, arranging overnight accommodation and transfers for stranded pax. Reservations have been fantastic, keeping customers up to date as and when they can, as well as proactive rerouting to avoid issues wherever possible.

    I was stuck at SYD last night thanks to a massive weather system causing thunderstorms & localised lightening over the airfield. Even with four other airlines cancelling a total of eight international flights, Qantas arranged accommodation & taxi transfers within 60min of the cancellation, and their Ground Agents were dealing with two large flights at once – including QF21 (my service) which has over 200 school children booked.

    So yes, you can bemoan QF’s response via social media, and the usually expected delays to call centres during issues – but that happens. Their focus has been on getting customers to their destination as fast as possible, and looking after them while they do. That has worked, and I’ve already nominated three ground agents today for consideration in their frequent flyer nominated staff service awards.

    • Michael, please remove the lewdness from your vocal orifice. I think CF reasonably documented the problems. I could expect the US Qantas response to be different than what is happening in Australia or Tokyo.

    • I believe you are out of line in your comments to Cranky, my boy. You appear to be very fortunate in your relationship with Qantas. OTHERS are not. As the old saying goes, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”. Bottom line, count your blessings and pity the poor chaps that don’t have your good fortune.

      Otherwise, lets be a little more civil in your thoughts……………. Remember, YOU are NOT the only customer Qantas must support.

    • LAFlyer says:

      I understand this might be asking a lot from an internet forum, but could we all please tone it down a bit. Cranky is a blogger, who happens to also be a human. In the event that he makes a tiny misstatement, or perhaps your opinion differs with his, it is not necessarily to fling vitriol at the poor guy and question the location or function of his various body parts. He has done nothing to deserve it. In the words of Jon Stewart, let’s take it down a notch for America.

      • David Z says:

        Yup. Or even if one feels that person deserves it, I suppose one is also prepared to take it if s/he dishes it out?

        Look up the golden rule if you haven’t yet. And it’s not the one where he who has the gold makes the rule…

  13. Cranky is doing a great service to all us travelers by keeping us informed on many matters, often furnishing interesting details that may be of use in our flights or other choices. His blog also gives all of us an opportunity to share our experiences, discuss general airline problems and trade suggestions.

    Yes, Cranky offers us all a great service in todays world of flying travel

    Thanks, Cranky, I hope that those who try to attack or kill the messenger can mature and realize what you are doing for us with your blog as a platform. However, as we all know, there will always be those individuals that are never fair or courteous in public forums. Too bad we all have to be exposed to their abuse.

    Keep up the good work Cranky!

  14. dab says:

    I don’t feel like setting up a bnet login, so I’ll chime in with one opinion here. I was staying at the Raddison LAX sometime recently, I am in and out of LA a lot, and I saw a Qantas plane landing. I thought “huh, is that the A380?” It took me at least 20 minutes of searching to figure out that it had been since the flight had been delayed like 14 hours and there was no straightforward way to see that. You had to see that the flight was delayed in one place, when a flight lands in another, and the schedule in the third and put it all together. My reaction: “Wow, that website blows…”

    Anyway, one of my few travel tips follows: if you want to stay at a hotel and watch planes land, you can’t really do better than the north side of the Raddison LAX. They used to have a great bar on the top floor that you could see like 10 miles of planes landing every 90 seconds. That was a fantastic view. When I stayed there recently they told me the bar closed two years ago and I complained. I had been looking forward to eating up there. 10th floor north side will have a nice view of a bunch of planes, still, however.

  15. SQ annouced it will change the engines on 3 of its A380 at the advise of Rolls Royce. Makes you wonder what is going on that isn’t being told to the public.

    • Bobber says:

      Bugger! That’s my flights for next week screwed up. Don’t mind being bumped to a triple 7, but not fancying 14hours in an aging 747 :(

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