Qantas Responds to “Low Fuel Emergency” on Domestic Flight

A Qantas Boeing 737 taxis to the runway.
Photo Credit: Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 AU, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Australian national flag carrier Qantas have issued a statement clarifying an incident which saw one of their B737-800 crews declare a low fuel emergency last Monday.

The incident in question took place on a scheduled flight from Brisbane to Perth on 18 July.

The July 18 incident

Monday’s incident involved regular scheduled flight QF-933 on a regular domestic flight from Brisbane Queensland, on the east coast, to Perth – Western Australia’s capital city on the west coast.

Flight time for the B737-800 was 5 hours 40 minutes, and the aircraft departed Brisbane after a 40-minute delay. Holding fuel was carried for a forecast 10-minute hold at Perth Airport.

Upon arrival in Perth controlled airspace, this hold was extended to 16 minutes by ATC. At this point the crew advised ATC of a low fuel state and requested approach priority.

It is reported that ATC advised QF-933 that they would need to formally declare an emergency to gain the desired priority. The crew apparently then issued an emergency call.

The flight subsequently landed without incident, however it was the issuing of the emergency call by the Qantas flight that meant a formal investigation would be triggered to determine to cause of the problem.

Qantas have posted a statement by their Chief Pilot late this week to explain the situation. The 21 July statement is as follows:

Comments from Qantas Chief Pilot Captain Dick Tobiano

“Based on the pre-flight conditions, our pilots loaded fuel in accordance with CASA requirements and Qantas’ fuel policy.”

“On approach into Perth, Air Traffic Control requested the aircraft hold for longer than our pilots had previously been advised, and that to be given priority to land our pilots needed to make a fuel mayday call.”

“The aircraft landed with 40 minutes of fuel in the tank, which is well above the minimum requirements. Our pilots followed the correct procedures and there was no safety issue with the flight.”

Further information:

  • QF933 from Brisbane to Perth on Monday 18 July operated by a Boeing 737 aircraft.
  • Prior to departure, Air Traffic Control notifications advised our pilots to carry an additional 10 minutes’ worth of fuel for expected holding in Perth. The pilots loaded enough fuel to account for this additional holding.
  • On approach into Perth, pilots were advised by Air Traffic Control that holding had extended to 16 minutes. After 10 minutes of holding, our pilots requested a priority landing and were told by Air Traffic Control that to get a priority landing ahead of the other four aircraft who were in the queue ahead of the aircraft they would need to call a fuel mayday, which they did.
  • CASA regulations require airlines carry 5 per cent contingency fuel. Qantas carried 10 per cent contingency fuel on this flight.
  • Aircraft are required to land with 30 minutes of fuel (the aircraft landed with 40 minutes of fuel).
  • As we do when incidents like this occur, we will be discussing it with Air Services Australia that manages Air Traffic Control.


The aircraft registered VH-VZO (pictured in this article) was serviceable. It is understood the crew made several cruising flight level changes during the course of the flight.

It is not unusual for aircraft to take these level changes, to take advantage of more favourable in-flight winds, or to reduce headwinds encountered enroute.

Because the mayday call triggered a formal investigation, all factors will be evaluated, including flight planning and command decision making.

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