How Qantas engineered its way through the Covid crisis

Australian Airline Qantas celebrated its centenary in 2020, sadly it was in the midst of one of the biggest worldwide shocks to affect the aviation giant. In this blog we investigate how Qantas has engineered its way through the Covid-19 crisis.

A brief history of Qantas

Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS) was founded in 1920 by Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness – two veterans of the Australian Flying Corps – together with local grazier Fergus McMaster. This was two years post World War One just 17 years after the Wright Brothers wowed the world with their first powered flight.

The brand ethos was to conquer the “tyranny of distance”, which at that time was a major barrier to the growth of modern Australia. Initially carrying mail between outback towns, Qantas grew quickly and was flying passengers to Singapore by the 1930s. In the 1960s it was an early adopter of the jet aircraft that mainstreamed global travel.

Qantas is the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world and the only one that – normally – flies to every single inhabited continent on earth.

How did Covid-19 affect Qantas

Qantas – like the rest of the world – didn’t initially grasp the severity and repercussions which would ensue due to Covid-19. But in March 2020, the company announced it would be reducing its capacity to almost a quarter as worldwide lockdowns resulted in a sudden and significant drop in travel demand.

Jumping forward eight months, the airline ramped up services to bring home 1315 Australians who had been marooned overseas.

The Group’s domestic capacity fell as low as 19 per cent in July 2020 before steadily recovering and then peaking at 92 per cent in May 2021, until outbreaks of the Delta variant triggered a series of lockdowns.

The importance of diversification

The aviation giant didn’t sit idly by as Covid took hold, it proactively looked at how to engage with its would be customers, this resulted in a tie up with Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, to allow Qantas frequent flyers to use their points on premium train trips.

Qantas Loyalty CEO, Olivia Wirth said “at a time when Australians are planning domestic holidays more than ever the partnership with Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions provides even more choice for frequent flyers to use their Qantas Points.

“Ninety per cent of our members want to use their points for travel so the ability to explore the country by rail is an exciting alternative for frequent flyers and a real drawcard for our program,”

Demand for air cargo capacity also remained extremely strong due largely to the surge in online shopping in the Australian market, this was compounded by the cancellation of most international passenger flights – passenger flights often carry freight in their holds. Qantas Freight was able to take advantage of this demand, delivering a record profit that significantly offset the costs of the grounded passenger flights.

At Energy Technology and Control we routinely transport customer orders using air freight, our equipment is often small in size and light in weight, making air freight a quick and cost-effective transportation option. With so many flights grounded due to Covid-19 restrictions, demand outstripped supply, resulting in freight often being delayed.

Ongoing engineering requirements

Even when grounded, there’s a significant amount of work required to keep Qantas’ fleet ready for when flying resumes. The aircraft have a number of storage safe-keeping requirements such as cockpit window shades to protect the equipment from sun, covers over the flight instrument sensors on the fuselage and regular wheel rotations to avoid flat spots on the tyres.

Qantas also need to keep the engines primed for take-off. Qantas’ Head of Line Maintenance John Walker says “every aircraft needs to have an engine wakeup and for our Boeing 747s it’s required every seven days. Because the majority of our fleet is grounded, it’s a bit like having a classic car parked in the garage, one that you’re only allowed to fire up once a week.”

However for the Qantas engineers based at the airline’s Los Angeles hanger, there is an entirely different requirement. A new pre-inspection procedure has had to be included to avoid the wrath of startled rattlesnakes when engineers carry out weekly maintenance on Qantas’ parked fleet of A380 aircraft.

The desert-based airfield is a temporary home to aircraft from all around the world, with numerous airlines from around the globe storing their aircraft on site until commercial travel returns to pre Covid-19 levels.

The Energy Technology and Control promise

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an interesting learning curve for many businesses. At Energy Technology and Control we have spent over 30 years working with customers around the globe and as such we understand the processes and procedures and strive to deliver to exceed your expectations at every step.

Qantas set out to conquer the “tyranny of distance”, which at that time was a major barrier to the growth of modern Australia. We are proud that Energy Technology and Control products can now be found in every corner of the world, from Australia to Azerbaijan,  China to Cyprus, Mexico to Morocco and Saudi Arabia to Switzerland, the company even has a stronghold in the oceans of the world thanks to the boiler monitoring devices installed on trans-oceans sea freight transporters.

Speak to a member of our team about how Energy Technology and Control products can help your company succeed on the global stage.