Qantas and Airbus have signed contracts for the largest single commercial aircraft order in Australian history.
The order, comprising 32 A320s and 78 A320neos was signed by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Airbus COO Customers John Leahy on October 6.
Of the 110 aircraft, 11 have been allocated to the new Qantas premium airline which will be established in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore – possibly the first time the A320 will be seen in Qantas mainline colours – while the other 99 will go to Jetstar to accommodate growth and to replace aircraft coming off lease.
“The reasons we’ve chosen the NEO, is the economic advantage and the impact on costs that are driven by fuel, maintenance and safety, and aircraft being delivered this decade,” Buchanan told media on October 6. “Simplicity of transformation into the NEO which is a largely common aircraft to our existing fleet makes the decision relatively easy. In terms of routing, the good thing about the NEO is that it can do anything the A320 can do today, and extends that range with both the sharklets and the engines. That will allow routes like Melbourne or Sydney to Bali and routes like Singapore to Beijing or Shanghai to be operated by narrow bodies, and also extends the range of the operation to make routes like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to the Australian east coast a reality as well.”
“Of the 99 (for Jetstar), there’s a series of aircraft that are slated for Japan, and a small number of aircraft that are slated for growth aircraft in our existing business,” he added. “And then there’s a series of aircraft that are slated at the moment for the rollover of existing aircraft, but we do have the flexibility of being able to use those for growth or for rollover coverage.”
While the orders have been booked for A320s, Buchanan added that there is scope to convert some of these to A321s, and that the airline was conducting a study into the use of the larger capacity aircraft on pan-Asian routes.
Interestingly, Buchanan confirmed that the order had been placed after consultations with Air Asia. The two airlines announced in 2009 that they would team up in specifying a new narrow body airliner, and he and Airbus’s John Leahy confirmed that the NEO was designed in part as a response to the two airlines’ requirements.
Qantas is yet to make an engine decision for its NEOs. The CFM LEAP-X and the P&W PurePower PW1100G are both on offer for the new variant.