Qantas is looking to upgrade its aging aircraft fleet with the latest technological developments from Boeing and Airbus. They have several key decisions to make, one of which is between the Boeing 797 or the Airbus A321 XLR.
What aircraft is the best and which is better suited for the airline?
What is Qantas looking to upgrade?
According to a slide that appeared in a recent Qantas results presentation, Qantas is looking to:
- Retire their fleet of 737-800s and replace them with either the Boeing 737 MAX series (so far, only Virgin Australia has ordered the aircraft in the region) or go with the A320neo series.
- Choose between the Boeing 777X or A350 for Project Sunrise, direct flights from the Australian east coast (Sydney and Melbourne) to Europe. Qantas may also pull a wildcard and simply order more Boeing 787s. They are expected to decide by the end of the year.
- Renew their old fleet of regional aircraft. They are looking at either the Embraer E2 or the Airbus A220. You can see which is best here.
- Lastly, they are examining new cutting edge aircraft like the Boeing 797 or Airbus A321.
Boeing 797 vs Airbus A321 XLR
Let us start this comparison by comparing each aircraft side by side. You can read a much more detailed analysis here – Boeing 797 vs Airbus A321XLR. As the Boeing 797 and A321 XLR has yet to be confirmed (and even built) by Boeing, all figures are estimated or from rumors.
- Range – 5,000 nmi (9,300 km)
- Seating – 228 (2-Class) up to 275 (1-class)
The twin-engine twin-aisle aircraft is the next big step for the aviation industry, one that has left the middle of the market behind. It is the spiritual successor to the Boeing 757 and 767.
Airbus A321 XLR
- Range – 4,700-5000 nmi (8,700 km)
- Seating – 206 (2-Class) 220 (1-Class)
The Airbus A321 XLR is a derivative of the A321neo, with an emphasis on the additional range.
Both aircraft claim to be incredibly fuel efficient, costing airlines significantly less in fuel over the lifetime of the aircraft.
Which is best for Qantas?
On one hand, the Boeing 797 will be perfect for Sydney to Melbourne domestic travel. This route is one of the densest in the world, with 54,519 flights a year according to traveller.com.au (The busiest is between the island of Jeju to the capital of Seoul in Korea, with 64,991 flights a year).
With a larger capacity than the 737-800s currently flying the route and twin aisles, Qantas will be able to transport more passengers than the competition and offer faster turnarounds than single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A321 XLR.
But the Airbus A321 XLR comes into its own when looking at price, time to market and being a proven aircraft. The Airbus only costs $115 million USD (and there is no way that Qantas would pay more than 50% of that) and it is currently available to buy.
If Qantas wanted the aircraft now they could potentially have it in the next two years (as opposed over five years for the Boeing 797). Lastly, the 797 has yet to even be built… whilst the A321 XLR is a derivative of an existing aircraft.
Whilst we don’t know for sure what aircraft Qantas will choose, it is likely to be their last choice after all the others and one they will only make once both aircraft have been flying for years.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.