Qantas has admitted deliberately leaving passenger baggage behind in the USA because of concerns over fuel consumption.
Traveller Steve Molkentin was dismayed to arrive in Brisbane on his QF8 flight from Qantas' new hub of Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), only to find his luggage hadn't made the journey.
That in itself is not a terribly uncommon experience for international travellers. However, Molkentin soon discovered that Qantas had deliberately left his luggage -- and that of many other passengers -- off the plane to reduce the weight of the Boeing 747-400ER.
"We landed in Brisbane with a very full plane, to an announcement that three containers of luggage had been left in Dallas/Fort Worth," Molkentin told Australian Business Traveller. "Further investigation showed it was intentional -- the plane would not have made Brisbane otherwise."
He said passengers were "told luggage was already coming via Los Angeles". Molkentin's bags arrived 24 hours after he did.
Qantas is the only airline in the world to fly the Boeing 747-400ER, where "ER" stands for "Extended Range".
These jumbos have specially designed fuel tanks designed to hold more jet fuel, which allows Qantas to fly the world's longest 747 route – from Sydney to Dallas.
However, the return leg from Dallas requires a stopover in Brisbane so that the aircraft can refuel because even the 747-400ER lacks sufficient fuel capacity to fly from Dallas to Sydney directly, given it faces strong headwinds on the homewards flight.
Qantas' need to leave three containers of baggage behind at DFW demonstrates just how tight the route is in terms of the fuel required to cover additional contingencies such as changed weather conditions.
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that "a number of bags were offloaded from the QF8 on 21 May due to load restrictions as a result of unseasonably strong winds.
"Emergency expenses will be covered for customers affected by this disruption and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.
"This is a new service for Qantas and we will be constantly monitoring how this service performs from both an operational and customer experience perspective."