Qantas, Jetstar Accelerate Maintenance As Flying Declines

Credit: Qantas

BRISBANE—Reduced flying by some Australian airlines will mean more work for their engineering divisions as the carriers look to bring forward maintenance work.

Qantas and Jetstar are among many airlines that have parked aircraft as a result of significant capacity cuts prompted by the coronavirus outbreak. Each are taking advantage of the lull to conduct additional base maintenance. 

Qantas is planning how much accelerated maintenance will fit into an already busy schedule, said Paul Crawford, the carrier’s head of base maintenance. “We are working through that now,” Crawford said during Aviation Week’s MRO Australasia conference Mar. 11.

The additional work would involve the airline’s Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s, which Qantas handles at its Brisbane maintenance base. New work would mainly include cabin modifications and aircraft health checks, and there could also be opportunities for some additional maintenance tasks, Crawford said.

Although there was already plenty of maintenance scheduled at Brisbane, the carrier still has some scope to tackle additional work, Crawford said, noting it demonstrates the benefit of keeping MRO work on the 737 and A330 fleets in-house, as it provides flexibility for the airline.

The additional maintenance means that when demand returns, the fleet will be ready to grow capacity again, he said.

Meanwhile, Qantas Group member Jetstar is also looking to conduct more maintenance while its fleet is flying less. The carrier will at least clear up any cabin repairs that have been deferred, said Mike Harris, Jetstar’s manager of engineering technology and innovation. Jetstar can take the opportunity to “get the cabins looking pristine.”

Some cabin issues are “not the end of the world” when the aircraft are heavily used, Harris said. But when they are not, “then it’s a great chance to get the aircraft back to tip-top condition.”

The cabin work would be done at Jetstar’s facilities in Newcastle and Melbourne in Australia. However, Harris notes that the maintenance schedule is quite full, and there are only a limited number of slots to be taken. Some of the work could be performed while the aircraft are on the line, where they are flying fewer turns.

Jetstar outsources most of its heavy maintenance. Heavy checks would only be brought forward if it was economically feasible, Harris said. “You’re not going to bring forward a seven-figure [heavy maintenance] service just because it’s convenient. That doesn’t make financial sense.”

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.