Qantas Boeing 737-800

Qantas looks at domestic fleet replacement

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says consideration of what aircraft will replace its domestic fleet is likely to begin in earnest after 2022.

Currently, the airline has 67 737-800s and 28 Airbus A330-200/300s that operate on domestic and international routes. There are also eight New Zealand-registered 737-800s that are flown on trans-Tasman services by Qantas’s Jetconnect subsidiary. The first of those 737-800s was delivered in 2002, making them 15 years old. At the other end of the scale, the newest 737-800 – Retro Roo I – arrived in the fleet in November 2014. The 18 A330-200s and 10 A330-300s have a similar age profile, with the oldest aircraft rolling out of the Airbus final assembly line in 2003 and the most recent in 2012.

The A330-200s have also spent time operating in the Jetstar fleet. Joyce told shareholders at the Qantas annual general meeting (AGM) in Melbourne on Friday the 737 fleet was still performing exceptionally well and generating good returns. However, attention would soon turn to a replacement aircraft, with Boeing’s 737 MAX family and the Airbus A320neo (new engine option) lineup the two leading contenders. Joyce said Qantas determining best aircraft to replace the 737-800s was expected to occur after 2022, the deadline for its Project Sunrise challenge to Airbus and Boeing to come up with a suitable airframe to mount ultra-long-haul nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to cities such as London, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town.

Further, Boeing’s proposed new mid-sized airplane (NMA) project for a small widebodied airliner would also be under the microscope for Qantas’s domestic network, with Joyce telling shareholders it could be a great domestic aircraft. “We’re hopeful that after we finish Project Sunrise that we can start doing a competition for what’s the right aircraft domestically,” Joyce said in response to a shareholder question at the AGM. Project Sunrise – the name is a nod to the “Double Sunrise” flights Qantas operated between Perth and Sri Lanka using Catalinas in WW2 – pits Boeing’s 777-8X against the A350-900ULR from Airbus in a two-horse race. Separately, Boeing’s NMA study was focused on a 250-270 seat, 5,000nm range widebody aircraft that would sit in its product portfolio between the 737 MAX 10 and 787-8. It would feature a composite wing and fuselage. While the proposed NMA aircraft is still be evaluated, Boeing indicated at the Paris Airshow earlier in 2017 it could fly in 2023 and enter service in 2025. Joyce told reporters in Seattle recently the proposed NMA would be useful as a way of providing domestic capacity growth into an increasingly slot-constrained Sydney Airport and the perfect vehicle for transcontinental routes between Perth and Australia’s east coast. While Qantas has no more narrowbody orders, the airline group has 99 A320neo (new engine option) family aircraft on firm order from Airbus, comprising 54 A320neos and 45 of the larger A321neo. The […]

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