787 to “revolutionise” Qantas long-haul network

The tail of Qantas’s second 787 in position zero on the Boeing 787 final assembly line.

Qantas is on the cusp of a new era in long-haul travel as it prepares to take delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on Monday.

The first of eight 787-9s the airline has on firm order is due to be formally handed over to Qantas at Boeing’s Everett facilities on Monday (US time) before it departs on its ferry flight to Australia on Tuesday and arrives in Sydney on Friday morning.

That first aircraft, registered VH-ZNA, will be quickly followed by the next seven aircraft over the next 12 months through to November 2018. The second Qantas 787-9 is in fact already on the final assembly line at Boeing’s Everett plant ahead of its delivery to the airline in early December, and it will be followed by aircraft three in January and aircraft four in mid-March, Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans confirmed on Sunday.

Those four aircraft will allow Qantas to launch its Perth-London flights, pioneering nonstop commercial airline services between Australia and Europe for the first time.

“The four aircraft are actually patterned together so that the aircraft run Los Angeles-Melbourne-Perth-London in a sort of smile pattern,” Evans told media at Boeing’s Everett plant on Sunday (US time).

“It starts to help us build a western hub, and potentially we can add additional services to Europe through that hub in the future, potentially a Brisbane-Perth-Paris or a Sydney-Perth-Paris, building a hub and hitting those key European hubs directly.”

But Qantas has already announced that its next four 787s will be based in Brisbane, two of which will be used to replace Boeing 747-400s on the airline’s current Brisbane-LA-New York rotation. That will then leave the remaining two aircraft for future route opportunities.

“The range capability that this technology delivers will enable us to hit new destinations, potentially things like Brisbane-Chicago,” Evans said.

“This new technology, and the technology potentially to come, will revolutionise our international network. These are aircraft that are made for Qantas and we can do unique things with these aircraft that other airlines, because of their geography, perhaps will not, or don’t need to.”

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNA. (Qantas)
The first Qantas 787 takes off on its first flight late last month. (Qantas)

In all the first eight 787s will allow Qantas to replace its five oldest 747-400s.

Beyond that Qantas holds options and purchase rights on a further 45 787s, but Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says a decision on exercising some of those options won’t be taken until some point next year after seeing how the first aircraft perform in service.

“There will be a gap, we do need to bed down the [787] operation, make sure that everything is working,” Joyce said. “We do have flexibility with Boeing and there is availability [of delivery slots] at the end of 2019, 2020 onwards.”

It’s a relatively conservative approach to introducing the aircraft into service, but nonetheless it seems likely the ultimate Qantas fleet will end up as much larger than eight units.

Boeing’s latest Current Market Outlook forecasts airlines in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) will require 150 medium-category widebody airliners of the 787 size over the next 20 years. Given Qantas is by far the largest of the three major airline groups in Australasia, that suggests a much larger Qantas 787 fleet in the longer-term.

Certainly Evans hints at the future potential of the aircraft.

“Because of their size, these aircraft are going to be great for our Asian network as well – point-to-point travel into Asia, 236-seats so there’s great opportunity and potential going forward for us to use this wonderfully flexible and efficient aircraft right around our network.”

And future 787 orders could be for the largest 787-10, or, potentially, the shorter 787-8, eleven of which are already in service with Qantas-owned Jetstar.

“This is a flexible order stream, so with appropriate notice we could move from a -9 to a -8 to a -10 and so it’s a great level of flexibility that we have to manage our fleet plan together with Boeing,” Evans said.

Comments

  1. says

    Boeing has just announced its next delivery schedule on the Boeing 787. This confirms that Qantas Group’s 18th & 19th airframes (Both 787-9 for QANTAS) will be arriving on 9th Nov 2018 and 20th Nov 2018 respectively.

  2. Shane says

    Such a big news story. QF are 3 years behind the 8 ball on this one. Not very innovative and no foresight by senior management again. Just wait until the buy the 777 20 years too late!!

  3. Alan H says

    The B787 does provide a lot of options operationally with the -8, -9 and -10 series. Airbus thinks so too, with its similar intentions for the A350. It’s the way forward. Wonder if we will see some Jetstar -8s sporting QANTAS livery down the track?

  4. Craigy says

    @Shane. Perhaps you should do some research. Qantas cancelled the firm orders they had for B787 except for 8s’ destined for Jetstar. Even those were reduced to 11 from the original 15. At the time of cancelling the orders, Qantas stated that they were not going to invest in new aircraft until the loss making international arm was returned to profit. Qantas also stated that the business case to purchase the B787 had to demonstrate that the aircraft operating cost were such that they could operate profitably in the markets envisaged for the aircraft. This included a new agreement with the pilots union and a reduction in debt. Last year Qantas International returned to profit and a new agreement with the union to operate the B789 enabled the airline to firm 8 of the options. So there really was foresight.

    As for the B777, it is being looked at for the long distance flights to Europe and the US. The B778 is in competition with the A359 ULR for an order.

  5. Patrickk says

    Shane, these were ordered a decade ago not quite QFs fault they were delivered so late: maybe Boeing could be sheeted some of the blame!!!

  6. Milsy says

    I’ve been to Japan many times on Qantas do you think they will switch to the 787 as ana and JAL both use them Sydney to Tokyo

  7. Tom says

    There was an article earlier today suggesting Qantas are looking at replacing all their B737 and A330 aircrafts with either the new B737 Max or the A320 neo. Personally (and what I’ve heard from QF flight crew) the B737 is very uncomfortable and isn’t a good plane to fly on like the A330.

    If Qantas want to look at purchasing new domestic fleet, they should consider the B787-8 and the new A330 neo/A320 neo. At least there will be efficiency and comfort for both crew and passengers.

    And for the long range aircraft, Qantas should definitely go for the A350ULR. Again, it will provide great comfort, efficiency and not have to make up for uncomfortable, dry ride that the B777 already holds against it. Plus it will give Qantas the opportunity to make those SYD-LRH or even SYD-JFK flights.

  8. Craigy says

    The first B789 has been named Great Southern Land. Icehouse played at the delivery ceremony. Interestingly, Iva Davies got the idea for the song flying across the centre on a Qantas flight.

  9. franz chong says

    in light of the reintroduction of the SYDNEY TO LONDON VIA SINGAPORE A380 service They should once they get enough 787’s bring on a handful of Sydney to Singapore via Adelaide flights.4 times a week dependent on time of year leaves lunchtime ex SYD 11AM OR noon arrives 12:40PM OR 1:40pm ADL time and onwards at EITHER 2PM OR 3pm to get into SIN around 7:50PM OR 8:50pm with enough time to connect onto the QF1 I am not sure what number it could be but don’t time it as such to clash with the existing QF81.I am thinking would it work for people who don’t want the hassles of nonstop ex perth to london and still want the asia stops to and from europe with such an option ex adelaide.