Qantas Replaces Boeing 747 To Santiago As Retirement Looms

Qantas is on course to meet its promise to phase out its 747 fleet by the end of 2020. The carrier announced today Sydney-Santiago to be the next route to be flown by the Boeing 787-9 newcomer.

Qantas B787-9 on taxiway at night
Qantas’ B787s are a must in order to compete in the current market. Photo: Qantas

The airline expects to showcase the Dreamliner on its Santiago route from late June of next year. There will be a commensurate increase in flight frequencies to make up for the reduced capacity of the 787 compared with the 747. Four weekly to daily will generate what the company says is the equivalent of 20,000 seats per year.

For decades, Qantas’ transoceanic routes demanded a four-engine aircraft such as the 747. But the carrier has recently been tempted by the maintainability of the two-engine type and the superior range of the aircraft (6,430 miles).

The biggest draw, however, is the Dreamliner’s “unprecedented” fuel efficiency. According to Boeing, the aircraft uses 25% less fuel per passenger compared to similar-sized aircraft.

Qantas Dreamliner

For passengers flying Sydney to Santiago, the Dreamliner will offer a greater degree of comfort. Business class provides enhanced luxury, including 42 seats with a fully-flat bed and a seated pitch of 46 inches. The layout also allows direct aisle access for every passenger.

Premium economy features a more spacious cabin, configured in four rows and a 2-3-2 layout. A seat in this class has a pitch of 38 inches.

Qantas B787-9 interior
Business class is more spacious and modern than the current B747. Photo: Qantas

Phase out

The airline already has eight 787-9s in service. The phase out of the Boeing 747s runs in tandem with a staged delivery of a further six Dreamliners. The carrier has an option for 38 more aircraft of the type. Qantas still has two 747-400s and six 747-400ERs in service.

In the carrier’s press release, acting-CEO Naren Kumar said the introduction of the Dreamliner was an “exciting change for the airline’s customers travelling to the South American gateway.

Our Dreamliner has been extremely popular with customers, so we’re pleased to give those travelling between Australia and South America the opportunity to experience it,” Mr Kumar said.

Qantas is also pushing forward with the cessation of its 747 flights between Sydney and San Francisco. As we reported in May of this year, Qantas intends to fly the QF73 transpacific route for the final time in December of this year. The route has been serviced by a 747-400 for almost half a century.

Qantas B787-9 taxiway
Cornerstone transpacific routes to be serviced by B787 from the end of the year. Photo: Qantas

“Better fit” for Santiago

Speaking with Executive Traveller earlier this year, Qantas’ boss Alan Joyce explained how the Boeing 787 would be a “better fit” for Santiago than the Boeing 747.

Of the 747, Joyce said, “It’s a smaller aircraft, the Boeing 787, so it allows you to build up the frequency (to Santiago). At the moment, we don’t have daily flights… so for us, (flying the Dreamliner) to South America isn’t going to be a problem.”

Previously Qantas was slated to retire its 747s by 2023. But due to a glut of deliveries of 787s and the expense of operating the out-dated 747s, the date has been brought forward.

Joyce waxed lyrical about the 747’s legacy. In a statement to press last year, he said, “The jumbo has been the backbone of Qantas International for more than 40 years … each new version of the 747 allowed Qantas to fly further and improve what we offered passengers.”