Qantas has a history of fielding a diverse range of aircraft, from the mighty Boeing 747 to the nimble Hawker Siddeley HS 125 and even at one point, the Australian airline had four Concordes on option.
But no story is more fascinating than Qantas’ Boeing 767s.
Why did Qantas order the 767?
Qantas’ first aircraft, a 767-200ER with tail number VH-EAJ, was delivered to Qantas on July 1985. Qantas would go on to order 41 Boeing 767s over the next three decades, buying older models from British Airways and ordering their own new aircraft from the aerospace giant. The 767 was remarkably special for Qantas, as it was its first wide-body twin-engined aircraft.
What role did they play in Qantas’ fleet?
The aircraft would then go on to fly 927,000 Qantas services carrying over 167 million passengers for just shy of 30 years.
The first 767s in the Qantas fleet were put to work on international services to the Pacific (for example New Zealand), Asia (such as Jakarta) and America (such as Hawaii). The aircraft was perfect for these routes as plenty of these smaller airports couldn’t really support a larger Boeing 747 (which was Qantas’ main international workhorse at the time) or Qantas’ couldn’t justify sending such large capacity to these smaller destinations.
“It really launched Qantas into the Asia marketplace – Japan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, all those sorts of places where we couldn’t really support the larger 747 aircraft,” Qantas Captin Mike Galvin said to Australian Aviation, on the last 767 service, “With 250 passengers it was just perfect.”
With the 767, Qantas could now offer the same high-quality service they were known for, but without compromising on large 747 costs.
But, from 1992, after a merger with Australian Airlines, Qantas found themselves using the 767 more and more on domestic services. Apart from the lucrative Sydney to Hawaii run (which you can read a review of here on a modern Qantas plane), Qantas deployed the 767s on the second most profitable route in the world; Melbourne to Sydney. 767s also operated to Perth and Brisbane.
Why did they retire them?
Ultimately, Qantas started to swap out the aging aircraft with 737-800s and Airbus A330s for the international routes. Simply put, Boeing stopped building or improving on the design of the aircraft (apart from the freight version) and the airline was faced with a choice to operate an aged fleet or find a new solution. Some have suggested that if Boeing reveals the 797, Qantas would be at the front of the queue to become the launch customer.
Although Qantas has gone on to order the Airbus version of the 797, the A321XLR, at the Paris Air Show.
Qantas retired the aircraft type after its last flight, Melbourne to Sydney on December 27th, 2014. They either scrapped aircraft for spare parts or sold them onto WestJet to help begin their international expansion. One Qantas 767 freighter is still in service today, flying a lonely route by itself across the Tasman sea to New Zealand.
“The 767 was more than just a ‘workhorse’ – it was reliable, powerful, versatile and comfortable for the passengers in its 2-3-2 configuration. Both the -200s and -300s fit so well into the Qantas network, complimenting the 747s and 737s perfectly. Put simply, the 767 was a great aircraft that delivered everything it promised to Qantas and more…” – Sarah at Australian Aviation.
What do you think about the Qantas 767? Did you ever fly onboard?