Qantas has confirmed it is proceeding with an aircraft order to replace aging aircraft across its domestic fleet, with older Boeing 717-200s and 737-800s at the airline the first in line to retire. The travel downturn temporarily put the brakes on new aircraft orders, but now new planes are back on the agenda at Qantas.
A preferred supplier decision later this month
On Tuesday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said an announcement on domestic fleet replacement aircraft was due later this month.
“We’re going to pick a preferred supplier by the end of the year,” Mr Joyce said on Tuesday morning at a CAPA conference in Sydney. The airline CEO confirmed his team had been working through the pros and cons of the Airbus A320neo, the Airbus A220, and Boeing’s MAX.
“It’s been a very comprehensive process over the last six months, and there is a lot of things we need to get into. Not a lot of people are buying aircraft at the moment, so we’re finding it is unbelievably competitive. This is going to deliver a good result for our domestic fleet replacement over the next decade.”
Qantas has 75 Boeing 737-800s jetting around Australia. The oldest jet in the 737 passenger fleet recently turned 20, while the youngest is just over seven years old. A substantial portion of the 737s are over 15 years old, and 19 planes are over 18 years old.
Subsidiary airline QantasLink has 20 Boeing 717-200s in its fleet. The oldest is over 21 years, while the youngest is nearly 16 years old. The average age of the 717 fleet is 19.8 years. Alan Joyce has previously praised the 717-200, saying it was a nimble and reliable plane that keeps on delivering. But he’s long acknowledged they were due for replacement.
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Alan Joyce dodges questions he’s leaning towards Airbus
Pressed on what aircraft type Qantas was leaning towards, Mr Joyce dodged the suggestion Qantas was favoring Airbus. However, Airbus A320 aircraft have proved a big success at low-cost subsidiary Jetstar.
“Qantas has Boeing 737s today, so it makes sense for us to stick with the Boeing aircraft,” Mr Joyce said in reply to the Airbus suggestion. “There are pros and cons each way.”
But the Qantas CEO admits he likes the role the Airbus narrowbody planes play at Jetstar, saying the incoming A321XLR is an “amazing aircraft.” Jetstar has over 100 incoming aircraft, including 45 A320neos and 64 A321neos on order (a combination of A321LR and XLR aircraft).
“We’ve got the Jetstar neos starting to arrive from July. That is an amazing aircraft with an amazing low-cost, and the range you can fly from Australia is phenomenal. It allows you to get into some of the Southeast Asian markets. We’re pretty excited about the capability that aircraft gives us.”
Qantas to convert two passenger A330s into freighters
Meanwhile, Qantas also announced on Tuesday that it was converting two Airbus A330-200 aircraft into freighters to support the significant shift towards consumers shopping online. One of the planes will fly exclusively for Australia Post, while another be used across Qantas Freight’s international network. This news comes in the same week that Qantas Freight received its third Airbus A321P2F freighter.
“The converted A330 aircraft for Australia Post will be able to carry around 50 tonnes of cargo each flight, more than double the capacity of other freighters operating for the national postal service,” said Mr Joyce.