Qantas Airways has launched a campaign for more than 100 new narrowbody aircraft in the latest sign of airline industry confidence in the coronavirus pandemic recovery.
The Sydney-based carrier is evaluating the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 Max families, as well as the smaller Airbus A220 and Embraer E-Jet-E2 families, for its domestic fleet. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he anticipates an order for a mix of aircraft sizes to meet the various needs across the airline’s Australian network. A decision is expected by year-end with deliveries from the end of 2023 and continuing through 2034.
The aircraft would replace the 20 Boeing 717-200s and 75 737-800s in the Qantas fleet, as well as be used for growth. Joyce did not mention the status of the 18 Fokker F100s in the Qantas fleet, which Reuters has reported are also up for replacement.
“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,” Joyce said at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Boston.
The crisis, despite hitting the airline industry hard, also created a significant opportunity to speed fleet renewals. Many airlines retired older, less efficient aircraft in favor of newer models — and bought more newer models at bargain prices. Qantas itself accelerated the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet in 2020, while Air France-KLM removed almost all of its four-engine jets, and Delta Air Lines retired its MD-88s and MD-90s. On the flip side, Ryanair has ordered 75 737 Maxes and United Airlines a mix of 270 Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies.
And on September 29, Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr cited attractive deals available in the market when he announced leases for four incremental Airbus A350s that will arrive next year.
A major Qantas order would be the first from an Asia-Pacific carrier since the pandemic shut most air travel in March 2020.
Asked about the cost of the aircraft order for Qantas, Joyce said the airline plans to spread the cost out over a decade but declined to specify a number. The domestic fleet renewal and an ultra long-range widebody order for its “Project Sunrise” flying will occur while also returning value to shareholders and maintaining its investment grade rating over the period, he said. Project Sunrise is Qantas program to launch nonstop flights between Sydney and both London and New York by the middle of the decade.
“We’re hoping in early 2022 we can revisit [Project Sunrise] and make a decision” on the aircraft type, said Joyce. Qantas is weighing either the Airbus A350-1000 or Boeing 777X for the nonstops, however, it favored the Airbus widebody before the crisis.
Qantas Group subsidiary Jetstar Airways has firm orders for 109 next generation Airbus narrowbodies, including 45 A320neos and 64 A321neos, at the end of August, according to Airbus’ orders and deliveries data.