As Qantas continues to navigate its way out of the travel downturn, the airline is also busy setting itself up for the future. Qantas has always said it would survive the downturn and emerge as a better airline. Flying into the 2020s, what can we expect to see from Qantas?
New planes and a return to the past at Qantas
For International travelers, Qantas appears set to bring back at least some of the A380 fleet. It might still be a couple of years off, but the Qantas Group CEO recently confirmed he sees a place for the big plane at the airline. At slot-constrained hub airports like Los Angeles and Heathrow, CEO Alan Joyce thinks the A380 can and will work well. That will also see the Qantas first class product return to the skies.
Whereas welcoming the A380 back isn’t new, rather a nice return to the past, Qantas’ pursuit of ultra-long-range flying is new. Under the guise of Project Sunrise, the airline wants to see non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast to cities like New York, Rio de Janeiro, Capetown, and London.
Project Sunrise got put on the backburner at Qantas last year, but the idea remains very much alive at the airline. Before the downturn, Qantas was just weeks away from ordering modified Airbus A350-1000 planes to tackle the flights.
A year later, Qantas remains keen but has said it will take a fresh look at its Project Sunrise requirements. That may include taking another look at Boeing’s 777X. There could be more to this story yet.
Changes afoot for Qantas’ domestic fleets
Back in Australia, Qantas needs to refresh its domestic workhorse fleet of Boeing 737-800 planes. They’ve also kicked that can down the road a little way, but a decision will need to get made before too long. What’s on the radar? Most likely Airbus A320s or Boeing’s 737 MAX.
A year ago, Airbus would have been the favorite. But the MAX is back in the air and, so far, performing well. The MAX is also well suited to Australia with its many long thin routes. It cannot be discounted from the race.
On the matter of long thin routes, Qantas is bringing Embraer E190s into its fleet via a wet lease deal with Alliance Airlines. It’s the first time we’ll see Embraers flying for Qantas. You probably won’t see the Embraers too much in busy airports like Sydney and Melbourne. Rather, they’ll crop up in airports like Darwin, Alice Springs, and Adelaide.
Qantas says swapping out 737-800s for Embraer E190s means they can offer better frequencies on those classic Qantas long thin routes over inland Australia. It will make a significant difference to people who fly those routes and to Qantas’ domestic network.
Qantas keeps its focus on becoming a greener airline
With the notable exception of bringing the A380s back into service, all these changes align with Qantas’ aim of becoming a greener airline.
“We are keeping an eye on the long-term goal, including our commitment to net zero carbon by 2050 and developing a viable, sustainable aviation fuel sector,” said Alan Joyce at a recent investor’s briefing.
Qantas’ carbon offset program is among the airline world’s better performing and is a straightforward way to reduce its environmental impact in the short term. In the medium to long term, bringing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and using more sustainable fuel is also essential to reducing an airline’s environmental impact.
Other than high levels of uncertainty, there’s not much that’s certain in the airline industry right now. But Qantas is learning to live with the short-term uncertainty and plan for the future. Over the next decade, it will be interesting to watch what happens at Qantas and what changes occur at the airline.
What are other significant changes likely to happen at Qantas over the next decade? Post a comment and let us know.