QantasLink operates a fleet of 20 Boeing 717-200s, with 11 of the 20 planes currently flying. The Boeings seat between 110 and 125 passengers and despite their age remain a dependable workhorse of the broader Qantas domestic fleet. Here’s a snapshot of where the 717s are flying today.
Until recently, QantasLink Boeing 717s were a staple in Western Australia and regularly flew into central Australian ports like Alice Springs. But parent Qantas has brought the planes east where they have found a niche flying routes too busy or too long for its Q 400 turboprops and too quiet for its Boeing 737-800s.
Only one QantasLink 717-200 is outside Australia. VH-NXE flew from Broome in Western Australia to Seletar Airport in Singapore on September 16. The jet is marked as parked. However, QantasLink does maintenance work on its 717s at Seletar, explaining why the plane is there.
Which QantasLink Boeing 717-200s are parked?
VH-NXD Berowra Valley National Park flew into Sydney from Brisbane on Thursday, October 28, operating as QF6201. The plane enjoyed intermittent service over October, flying in and out of Brisbane but is now parked. Also, after a steady but not exceptional amount of flying, VH-NXG flew to Canberra from Brisbane on Sunday, October 24. The plane has remained there since.
VH-NXM Strzelecki National Park is also parked, having lost operated QF6200 between Canberra and Melbourne on Monday, October 11. Before that, the jet was flying every second or third day. VH-NXO Wilsons Promontory National Park is parked in Canberra. The Boeing flew to Australia’s capital on September 10 from Brisbane.
VH-YQY is also in Canberra, having flown up from Melbourne on October 25. Although only a week since its last flight, aircraft databases class the plane as parked. Why is Canberra a popular destination for parked QantasLink 717s? Canberra is a fair-sized airport with ample spare space and not much traffic at the moment. The parking fees would be a handy bit of business for the airport.
VH-NXR Murray River National Park has been in Melbourne since October 28 and is now marked as parked. Also parked in Melbourne is VH-YQT Tasman National Park. The plane flew in from Canberra on Monday operating QF1515. Like Canberra, Melbourne has plenty of spare room to park planes, especially with Melbourne Airport quieter than usual.
VH-YQX is parked in Sydney and has been so since mid-June when the jet relocated from Canberra.
QantasLink 717s in the air
Moving onto the active QantasLink Boeing 717-200s, VH-NXH is in Brisbane on Wednesday after operating a Brisbane – Cairns – Brisbane service the previous day. The jet has had a steady amount of flying lately, including operating four sectors on Monday. VH-NXI Blue Mountains National Park has been in Melbourne since Monday when it flew Melbourne – Canberra – Melbourne and Melbourne – Launceston – Melbourne sectors. VH-NXI has done a relatively infrequent amount of flying lately, often from Melbourne to destinations in Tasmania and also to Canberra.
VH-NXJ Kakadu National Park is in a similar position. It flew a Melbourne – Launceston – Melbourne service on Tuesday and a Melbourne – Sydney – Melbourne service the day before. VH-NXJ is getting into the air, just not for a whole lot of time. VH-NXK Eucla National Park seems to be busier. On Wednesday morning, it operated Brisbane – Rockhampton – Brisbane. Since Monday, VH-NXK has operated Brisbane – Mt Isa – Brisbane twice and done two return runs to Rockhampton. The plane has been in the air most days recently, often several times a day.
Also whizzing up and down the Queensland coast on Wednesday is VH-NXL Daintree National Park. The plane is operating Brisbane – Cairns – Brisbane on Wednesday morning. On Monday, VH-NXL has the distinction of operating Qantas’ inaugural nonstop Brisbane – Launceston – Brisbane flights.
VH-NXN Freycinet National Park has stayed on the ground in Brisbane since Monday after operating Brisbane – Rockhampton – Brisbane and Brisbane – Cairns – Brisbane sectors that day. For the latter half of October, VH-NXN has stuck to flying intrastate routes within Queensland – understandable while Queensland’s borders remain closed to most of Australia.
VH-NXQ Port Campbell National Park flew between Brisbane and Canberra on Sunday and has remained there since. The plane isn’t classified as parked, although its status may soon change. Before flying to Canberra, VH-NQX did irregularly fly over October, mostly bouncing between the capital cities in Australia’s southeast corner.
QantasLink is working Tasmania hard
VH-YQS Great Otway National Park is in the air on Wednesday morning, flying one of those routes the 717-200 is a perfect fit for – Hobart to Brisbane. This particular Boeing is a regular on the run between Brisbane and Qantas’ Tasmanian port of Hobart. The jet also makes frequent appearances in Launceston, operating Melbourne – Launceston – Melbourne.
Also hanging around Tasmania on Wednesday is VH-YQU Royal National Park. The plane flew down to Hobart from Brisbane on Wednesday morning and returned to the Queensland capital later. Why is there so much traffic between Tasmania and Queensland on a Wednesday morning? Tasmania is one of the few states Queensland is open to. QantasLink has to squeeze out some revenue and flying hours where it can – although how many people are actually on these flights would be interesting to know.
VH-YQV Kosciuszko National Park is in Brisbane on Wednesday morning, preparing to operate a flight to – you guessed it, Hobart. QF1721 will push back around lunchtime on Wednesday. The 717-200 has not ventured off the now well-worn Brisbane-Hobart-Brisbane routing for the last fortnight.
Replacement aircraft on the horizon, but life left in QantasLink 717s yet
Just to be a little different, VH-YQW is in Sydney on Wednesday. VH-YQW had been doing the usual QantasLink circuit until earlier this week. On Monday, residents of the Sydney area were allowed to leave the metropolitan area and travel throughout the rest of the state. This was on the same day New South Wales dropped its quarantine rules for international arrivals and also opened to Melbournians.
As a result, Qantas put VH-YQW on the Sydney – Coffs Harbour – Sydney run all week. The route is one of the busiest intrastate routes in New South Wales, with Virgin Australia and Regional Express also flying between the two cities.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce is a big fan of the 717. He likes its versatility and reliability. But the planes are getting old (the average age of the QantasLink 717 fleet is 19.7 years), and orders for replacement aircraft are on the horizon.
But it will be a few years before any replacement planes arrive, meaning there is still plenty of flying in the QantasLink Boeing 717-200s yet.