What Happened To Jetstar’s Boeing 717 Fleet?

Jetstar has been around for 15 years. Not many people will remember that the airline started with a fleet of nine Boeing 717-200s. Where those planes came from is an interesting story in itself. Back in the early noughties, Qantas’ then CEO, Geoff Dixon, bought Impulse Airlines and its fleet of Boeing 717-200s. Those planes were later used as the foundation fleet of Jetstar.

A Jetstar 717-200 at Melbourne in 2004. Photo: Aeroprints.com via Wikimedia Commons.

Where the 717-200s came from

In May 2004, Jetstar formally took possession of nine Boeing 717-200s. They were VH-IMD, VH-IMP, VH-LAX, VH-VQA, VH-VQB, VH-VHC, VH-VQD, VH-VQE, and VH-VQK. All except the last, VH-VQK came to Jetstar from Impulse Airlines via Qantas. VH-VQK came to Jetstar from American Airlines via Qantas.

Over the next couple of years, Jetstar received a further five Boeing 717-200s. They were VH-YQF, VH-YQG, VH-YQH, VH-YQI, and VH-YQJ. All came to Jetstar from American Airlines via a short spell with Qantas

But within a few years, all the Boeing 717-200s were gone from the Jetstar fleet. The airline looked to the A320 instead. What happened to the Jetstar Boeing 717s?

Where the 717-200s went

The first Boeing 717-200 exited the Jetstar fleet in December 2005. That aircraft was VH-IMD. The last 717-200 to exit the Jetstar fleet was VH-YQI in October 2007. Initially, all the aircraft went to National Jet Systems (NJS).

A Jetstar Boeing 717-200 at Townsville in 2005.Photo: w:en via Wikimedia Commons.

NJS was an Adelaide based airline operating regular passenger and charter services. It is now known as Cobham Aviation. Cobham is an unusual airline running a variety of aircraft on regular FIFI work, freight charter services, surveillance and reconnaissance work for the Australian Government and flying Boeing 717-200s for Qantas under the QantasLink brand.

NJS and Cobham Aviation has a longstanding contract to operate Boeing 717-200 services for Qantas until 2026. The contract was renewed in 2016 for ten years. It is worth a handy USD$82 million annually and sees Cobham providing pilots, cabin crew, and maintenance services for the fleet of Boeing 717-200s that fly under the QantasLink brand.

Knowing the Boeing 717-200 went to NJS / Cobham over a decade ago, the question remains, have those Jetstar 717-200s since dispersed elsewhere?

Three planes went to Hawaii

Twelve of the planes are still jetting around Australia wearing Qantas’ distinctive red and white livery. They’ve had various tail registration changes over the years, but only three have left Australia. In October 2008, VH-VQB left NJS and went to Hawaiian Airlines where it now flies as N489HA. Two months later, in December 2008, VH-VQA and VH-VQC also went to Hawaiian Airlines where they now fly as N488HA and N490HA respectively.

What the remaining aircraft are doing right now

Of the remaining twelve aircraft, VH-IMD is now VH-NXH and flies for QantasLink. This morning it flew between Cairns and Yulara as QF1851. VH-IMP is now VH-NXI and also back at QantasLink. This morning it operated QF1544 between Canberra and Brisbane. VH-LAX is now VH-NXG, is based in Perth and is flying between Perth and Paraburdoo this morning.

VH-VQD is now VH-NXD and operated by Cobham for QantasLink. It is also heading off to Paraburdoo this morning. VH-VQE is now VH-NXE. This aircraft now flies mostly around Queensland under QantasLink colors and is on its way to Cairns this morning. VH-VQK is now VH-NXQ. Like all the others so far it is busy operating QantasLink services this morning, flying from Mackay down to Brisbane.

VH-LAX at Brisbane in 2004. Photo: Aeroprints.com via Wikimedia Commons.

VH-YQF is now VH-NXK, flying for QantasLink. It flew from the evocatively named but very un-evocative Cloudbreak down to Perth this morning. VH-YQG is now VH-NXL, flying for QantasLink all over the country. This morning it was in Mt Isa. VH-YQH is now VH-NXM, another Perth based QantasLink branded aircraft that flew to Port Hedland this morning.

VH-VQI is now VH-NXN, which flies for QantasLink around Queensland. It is off to Mt Isa this morning. The final Jetstar 717-200 was VH-YQI, now VH-NXO and like all the others, flying under QantasLink colors. It isn’t currently flying, most recently flying between Broome and Singapore in early November 2019.

Final thoughts

Twelve of the fifteen original Jetstar 717-200s still fly for the Qantas Group. There are moves afoot to replace both this aircraft type and the Fokker 100 aircraft that Qantas still flies around the place under arrangements with external operators like Cobham Aviation. But the 717-200 has proved a reliable workhorse for Qantas, notably on those long, skinny regional routes.

Those 717-200s have come a long way from those Impulse Airlines days