Qantas CEO Sees Opportunity For 737 MAX To Join Qantas Fleet

The 737 MAX could be joining the Qantas fleet. That’s according to remarks made last week by the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce. The Qantas chief sees the opportunity for a bargain with benefits for both Qantas and Boeing.

Qantas is reported to be considering the 737 MAX to replace its existing 737-800 fleet. Photo: Qantas News Room.

Qantas looking to replace existing 737-800 fleet

Qantas operates 75 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. These narrowbodies are the workhorse of the airline’s domestic fleet. However, they are starting to age. Last year, several Qantas 737s were grounded when cracks were found in their pickle forks.

The airline is looking to start replacing these 737-800 aircraft. On the airline’s metaphorical radar are aircraft from the A320 family and the 737 MAX. However, there’s the obvious issue of the 737 MAX having been grounded for nearly a year following two crashes that killed 346 people.

Qantas operates a fleet of 74 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Photo: Qantas News Room.

While some people lack confidence in the 737 MAX and question whether it will ever take to the air again, Mr Joyce is not one of the doubters. He made the following remarks in speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Qantas itself will put the MAX aircraft through its own lens to make sure we are comfortable with it.

“If you look at it from an opportunity point of view, given the aircraft is going to be very safe, what will Boeing do to get the safest airline in the world to buy the aircraft?”

Parlaying reputation for a bargain

Mr. Joyce’s strategy appears to harness the credibility of being the world’s safest airline to drive a hard bargain with Boeing. Assuming Boeing irons the bugs out with the 737 MAX and it gets the all-clear to fly again, a purchase by Qantas will be an endorsement worth its weight in gold.

The strategy is contingent on a few factors. Firstly, it’s important that the wider market shares the same view of Qantas’ safety record and its currency that Mr. Joyce does. Secondly, Qantas must be able to overcome some wider passenger concerns about the 737 MAX. It may take more than a slick marketing campaign to sway some folks to board a MAX flight again.

Alan Joyce plans to drive a hard bargain with Boeing if the order goes ahead. Photo: Getty Images.

But the mere fact that the 737 MAX is still in the mix at Qantas will cheer Boeing.

Qantas has been a good long term customer for the American aircraft manufacturer. But more and more Airbus aircraft are now sporting the red kangaroo livery. Most recently, Qantas selected the Airbus A350-1000 over the Boeing 777X for its Project Sunrise aircraft. Wholly-owned subsidiary Jetstar features an almost entirely A320 fleet.

A lot of people back the A320’s chances

Given the success of the A320 program and the fact that Qantas was already familiar with it, there has been speculation that the A320 is the natural choice to replace the Boeing 737-800s.

Qantas had expressed interest in the proposed Boeing 797 aircraft, deeming it a good aircraft to use on the busy south-east triangle routes. But the 797 remains in the planning stages. In fact, Boeing is reported to be reconsidering the aircraft altogether.

Through Jetstar, Qantas is already familiar with the A320. Photo: Jetstar News Room.

Mr. Joyce’s admission that he was thinking about the 737 MAX as a replacement aircraft may surprise some. But Qantas thinks that once the aircraft overcomes its problems, it will be a very reliable and safe plane.

It is a very ‘Joycian’ move to seize an opportunity like this. Qantas takes its safety reputation very seriously. It offers the airline a gold plated competitive advantage. To offer to spread a little of that reputational fairy dust on a brand that is seriously tarnished will probably prove very expensive for Boeing.

The question for Boeing will be: “is it worth it?”

Do you think Alan Joyce is making a smart move with his comments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.