Qantas Locks In Ambitious Domestic Fleet Renewal Program

The Australian airline Qantas on Tuesday confirmed an ambitious 10-year program to renew its domestic fleet. The announcement, which Simple Flying flagged yesterday, will see more than 100 new aircraft enter the national carrier’s domestic fleet by 2034.

Qantas has confirmed it will buy 100+ planes as part of a domestic fleet renewal program. Photo: Getty Images

“We’re calling this Project Winton, after the birthplace of Qantas in outback Queensland, because this is a foundational decision for the future of our domestic operations,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said from Boston, where he is attending IATA’s AGM.

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Embraers, Boeings, and Airbus aircraft on Qantas’ radar

On the way out are some of the workhorses of Qantas’ domestic fleet, including the Fokker 100s that focus on fly-in-fly-out resources work, Boeing 717-200s that fly thinner passenger routes as well as some charter and resources work, and some of the older Boeing 737-800s.

On the way in are several possibilities. Qantas confirms they are examining options from the Boeing 737 MAX family, the Airbus A320neo family, plus the smaller Embraer E-Jet E2 family, and the Airbus A220.

Qantas will run a tender process. That process will include a detailed evaluation of the aircraft against four key criteria: safety, reliability and performance, sustainability and emissions reduction, and commercial terms.

“This is a long-term renewal plan with deliveries and payments spread over ten years, starting in FY23, but the equally long lead time means we need to make these decisions soon,” says the Qantas CEO.

“Our approach is always to have the right aircraft on the right route, which really means balancing the size of the aircraft with the demand in each market. The mix of aircraft we’re considering means we’ll have more operational flexibility, which for customers translates into more direct routes to smaller regional centers and more choice of flights throughout the day.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Photo: Getty Images

Qantas chases an early mover advantage

Qantas also confirmed that it would take the three remaining and past-due Boeing 787-9s between July 2022 and July 2023. Thrown into the mix was the news Alan Joyce wants Project Sunrise flights up and running sometime in 2024/25 – a shorter timeline than previously flagged.

“We know travel demand will rebound quickly, and right now, we’re in a strong position to secure the best possible deal at very good prices,” Mr Joyce said.

This order neatly divides into two groups – aircraft to begin replacing the mainline narrowbody fleet and smaller regional type jets to cater to skinny routes and charter work. Potentially filling the first group are Boeing’s 737 MAXs and the Airbus A320s. Slotting into the second group is the Airbus A220 and Embraer E2 jets.

Qantas has recently found success flying Embraer’s regional jets. Photo: Lila Design

As Simple Flying noted on Monday, each type has considerable merit and a decent chance of making the grade. Qantas anticipates deliveries to begin in 2023 but says it will maintain flexibility in delivery schedules to cater to constantly adjusting travel trends.

“The aircraft we’re considering have been in service for several years, which gives us the confidence that they’ve gone through rigorous troubleshooting by the time they enter our fleet. They’re new, but they are known quantities,” adds Mr Joyce.

Qantas says final decisions on preferred suppliers of aircraft and engines should be made by the end of 2021, followed by firm orders by mid-2022.

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