Qantas has already taken delivery of four 787-9s, and has another four scheduled to be delivered by the end of this year.
Deliveries of the latest six orders are expected to begin in the second half of 2019 and continue through late 2020. After these six are converted, Qantas will still have 39 options and purchase rights remaining, an airline spokesman told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily.
Qantas has previously signaled that it intended to order more 787s, although it was coy on the timing. The carrier said it wanted to prove its initial 787s could operate profitably before committing to additional firm orders.
The additional six 787s will allow Qantas to accelerate the retirement of the last of its 747-400s, the airline said. It currently operates 10 747s, and four of these have already been slated to be phased out from July. Qantas previously indicated the last six 747s would remain in the fleet until around 2022-2023, but now intends to retire these by the end of 2020.
With the arrival of the extra 787s, Qantas will be able to operate this type to destinations in the Americas, Asia, Europe and South Africa. The latest six orders will likely replace 747s on certain routes, although there will also be some fleet readjustment to ensure the 787s are used where their capabilities are best suited. The carrier has previously talked about Seattle and Chicago as new destinations that could be introduced with additional 787s, but the list of potential routes is long, the Qantas spokesman said.
The 787s from the new order will be configured the same as those already in the fleet, the carrier said. This means they will have 236 seats, significantly fewer than the 364 seats in the 747s they are replacing. However, Qantas said the changes to its capacity will be “negligible,” since the 787s will allow more efficient scheduling, reduced maintenance downtime and less long-range payload restrictions.
CEO Alan Joyce noted Qantas has been flying 747s of various types since 1971, with the last new 747 joining the fleet in 2003. The retirement of the last 747s, the addition of more 787s and the refurbishment of A380 cabins will coincide with the carrier’s centenary in 2020.
The airline also released a financial update in parallel with the fleet announcements.
Qantas Group revenue rose 7.5% year-on-year in the three months through March 31, with unit revenue up 6%. Group domestic capacity decreased by 1.9%, with international capacity increasing by 2.3%. The carrier expects an A$200 million ($150.2 million) increase in its fuel bill for its full fiscal year through June 30, although it is still forecasting a record underlying profit of A$1.55 billion-1.6 billion for the year.
(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)