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.

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