Nearly 15 years after receiving its first Boeing 737-800, Qantas has racked up one million flights with the narrowbody aircraft across domestic and international routes.
The milestone was reached on Thursday afternoon, when Qantas flight QF923, operated by VH-XZI, took off from Cairns bound for Sydney.
In the flightdeck of VH-XZI for the milestone flight were Captain James Lambert and First Officer David Collits, while Qantas Engineering principal technical officer for the 737 fleet Jeff Richards was invited to join them as a special guest, the airline said.
The aircraft, which is one of the younger 737-800s in the fleet given VH-XZI was delivered in 2013, landed in Sydney about two hours and 40 minutes later.
There was little time for celebrations though, with the 737 at the gate for just on an hour before operating QF540 to Brisbane.
Qantas’s head of fleet operations Mike Galvin said the milestone highlighted the “strong capabilities” of the 737-800 fleet, which he described as a “very important part of the Qantas family”.
“The B737-800 aircraft are the workhorse of Qantas’s entire fleet, averaging 350 flights a day. Since 2002 these aircraft have carried more than 130 million passengers,” Galvin said in a statement.
Currently, Qantas has 75 737-800s in the fleet. Of those, 67 are Australian-registered aircraft while eight are operated by New Zealand subsidiary Jetconnect and have New Zealand ZK- registrations.
The airline first ordered the 737-800 in 2001, taking over an order from American Airlines following the US carrier’s decision not take up the aircraft in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the need for quick extra capacity in Australia due to the collapse of Ansett at that time. The first aircraft, VH-VXA, arrived in Australia in January 2002.
Almost 13 years later, in November 2014, Qantas took delivery of the last 737-800 on firm order when it picked up VH-XZP (aka Retro Roo I) at Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Seattle.
In 2015, Qantas commenced work reconfiguring its fleet of 67 Australian registered Boeing 737-800s with a row of extra seats, slimline lavatories and smaller galleys at the airline’s Brisbane maintenance hangar.
That work was conducted at Qantas’s maintenance facilities in Brisbane and Sydney and has now been completed.
The move to add six more seats increased the seat count of the Qantas 737-800 to 174 seats – 12 business and 162 economy. By way of comparison, Virgin Australia’s 737-800s have eight business class and 168 economy class seats for a total 176.
Also, 38 of the 67 aircraft that did not have seat-back inflight entertainment were equipped with wireless technology to give passengers the option of streaming content onto their own personal devices via the airline’s Q-Streaming application.
Qantas is also installing internet wi-fi connectivity on its domestic fleet, with the service due to be turned on some time in early 2017.
“We recently finished a multi-million dollar refurbishment program to improve the inflight experience with new interiors, seats and inflight entertainment,” Galvin said.
“We’re also really excited that inflight wi-fi will be introduced on this aircraft.”
The airline has no more orders for new narrowbody aircraft. It is expected to run a competition between the 737 MAX an Airbus A320neo at some future point for the replacement of its existing 737-800s.