Why Qantas Is Flying The Boeing 787-9 On Select Domestic Routes

Except for east-west transcontinental flights, it has always been relatively rare to find yourself on a widebody aircraft flying domestic routes in Australia. This year, even more so. But there are always a few exceptions. Over the next month, Qantas is giving people a few opportunities to take a domestic flight on a Dreamliner.

Qantas is running some Boeing 787-9s on domestic routes this month. Photo: James D Morgan / Qantas

Qantas runs some Dreamliner repositioning flights out of Darwin

These flights are repositioning flights back to Sydney after Qantas operates another round of repatriation flights into Darwin. These flights, operated by 787-9 aircraft, are offloading their international arrivals in Darwin due to an Australian Government decision to quarantine them at a former 3,500-bed mining camp half an hour south of Darwin.

The repatriation flights have already commenced from London and Delhi and are continuing over November. Flights from Johannesburg are planned, but the exact dates are not yet known. It is rumored but remains unconfirmed that the Johannesburg flights will also end up in Darwin.

After a thorough clean in Darwin, the Dreamliners will continue onto Sydney. Qantas has these flights for sale on their website. Flying time between Darwin and Sydney is a little over four hours.

Typically, Qantas runs a daily lunchtime service out of Darwin to Sydney using a Boeing 737-800. On selected days over November, it is adding an extra mid-afternoon departure, QF847. Some of the QF847 services are being operated by Boeing 787-9s rather than the usual 737-800s.

For example, next week, Simple Flying has found 787-9 departures out of Darwin on November 11 and 12.

Source: Qantas

Arguably, there’s not much difference between flying a Dreamliner and a 737 if you travel in the main cabin. Sure, the 787-9 is a bigger plane, but the seats are pretty squeezy on both aircraft types over a four-hour flight. The main cabin configuration in a Qantas 737-800 is 3-3. In their 787-9 Dreamliner, it is 3-3-3.

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Four hours in a Qantas Business Suite?

Where the 787-9 shines is up the front. The Qantas Business Suites are installed in all Qantas Dreamliner aircraft, and they are excellent. Interestingly, on both days, Qantas is pricing them around US$936. In contrast, to buy a far inferior recliner style business class seat on the 737 service costs around US$1,840. Go figure that.

Source: Qantas

If you’d care to use points, a business class seat on the Qantas 737 service out of Darwin is also twice the price of a Business Suite on the Dreamliner flying out a couple of hours later. That said, they are both ridiculously overpriced, with business seats on the 787-9 going from 199,800 points and the 737-800 service from 391,900 points.

Source: Qantas

In contrast, soon to be oneworld partner, Alaska Airlines, wants just 20,000 points plus US$46 to get you from Darwin to Sydney in Qantas business class that same day, albeit via Brisbane and not on the Dreamliner.

Source: Alaska Airlines

Better value than the recent seven-hour scenic flight

Whether it’s worth ponying up the required cash or points for a four-hour ride in a nice seat on a Dreamliner is all in the eye of the beholder. It’s an afternoon flight with some nice scenery, and the inflight service is always good. On a per hour basis, it’s also arguably far better value than Qantas’ recent seven-hour 787-9 scenic flight that sold business suites for around US$2720 each.

While this is a pretty niche offering in the broader scheme of things, it might just work for some footloose and fancy-free Territorians. It’s also a good example of some of the oddball vagaries out there in airline ticket pricing.