Qantas is about to start a massive fleet renewal. They need new aircraft to open new routes, replace existing old aircraft (some older than 30 years) and renew their domestic fleet with the latest options on the market.
For those curious, here are the current choices facing Qantas, based on a chart in their recent financial results presentation.
- Project Sunrise – A350 or 777X to fly from Sydney/Melbourne direct to London
- Regional Fleet – Replace their old regional fleet with Airbus A220s or Embraer E2s
- Future Proof – Decide if they will invest in the Boeing 797
- Domestic Fleet – They will need to choose between Boeing or Airbus for their Boeing 737-800 fleet renewal.
The Australian domestic market
Before we can take a stab at what aircraft would be best, we should discuss the Australian domestic market.
Australia is huge, bigger than Europe and almost as big as the continental United States. But here the thing… no one lives there. With a population of 26 million split into roughly five major urban areas, Australia is a country that has no ‘fly-over’ states or regional hubs found in other areas of the world.
As such, flight travel is mainly between these five cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide) with some supplementary travel to small cities. Thus, these five cities have enormous air traffic, such as Sydney to Melbourne which is the second most popular route in the world. Distances can be vast, with the shortest air route taking just under an hour, and over five for longer journeys.
Frequency is preferred over capacity, with airlines wishing to operate as many flights per day as possible. Qantas currently operates a fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800 aircraft (you can see a review here).
Option 1: Boeing
Qantas could simply renew their relationship with Boeing and order the next version of the 737 MAX aircraft.
Their rival Virgin Australia, who competes on many of the same routes, has an order for the aircraft but recently deferred deliveries.
Qantas does have to be careful, however, as recent events with the aircraft family (namely the two crashes that killed 300 people and Boeing’s subsequent lack of responsibility on the issue) may make it an unpopular choice with customers. Qantas prides itself on its 100% safety record (or rather 100% ‘never crashed’) and buying an aircraft that has had accidents might make their customer base a little nervous. Especially that its a flaw with the aircraft and proven to not be pilot error.
But if not the Boeing 737 MAX, then what?
Option 2: Airbus
The other option on the table is the Airbus A320 family, namely the A321LR.
With a capacity of up to 240 passengers and a potential range to reach nearby Asian cities (such as Singapore and Manila), the A321LR could be a very versatile aircraft for Qantas.
Qantas has previously ordered the A320 for their low-cost-carrier Jetstar and made an order for 18 Airbus A321LR’s, the first in the region, as reported by Australia Aviation.
Which will they choose?
Naturally, we don’t know for sure which way Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is leaning. But if we had to put money on it, we would suggest that Qantas is looking at the Airbus A321LR for their fleet renewal.
We can also hypothesise that any major order will be made together with Project Sunrise. If Qantas is going to place an order for 10-20 major long haul aircraft, it makes sense that they will seek a discount by also ordering several other domestic aircraft at the same time.
What do you think? Which will Qantas order?