Qantas plans to use Fokker 100 aircraft from its Network Aviation subsidiary to operate scheduled flights in Western Australia under the QantasLink brand.
The move will result in QantasLink ending all turboprop operations from its Perth hub and is part of a broader change to the network that will result in four Bombardier Q300 aircraft leaving the fleet and schedule changes in a number of markets.
QantasLink head of airports Todd Chapman said Network’s Air Operator’s Certificate had now been amended to allow it to operate regular public transport (RPT) flights with its 12 100-seat Fokker 100s.
“We are starting to use those aircraft as QF-coded flight numbers on formal RPT routes,” Chapman told delegates at the Australian Airports Association national conference on the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
“It is a real symbol of the diversity that QantasLink now has in order to meet not just right aircraft, right route, but we can also tackle different markets with the different fleet choices that we have depending if they are RPT or charter.”
With the end of turboprop operations at Perth, QantasLink flights from the West Australian capital would use either Boeing 717s or Network-opeated Fokker 100s.
Qantas acquired Network, which runs charter and fly-in/fly-out services, in February 2011.
Chapman noted QantasLink’s fleet comprising 49 Bombardier turboprops and 18 Boeing 717s, flew 10 per cent more flights per day than Qantas mainline domestic and carried 20 per cent more passengers than Qantas’s international operations.
Moreover, 33 per cent of passengers travelling on QantasLink flights were connecting onto a Qantas domestic or international flight, which Chapman said highlighted the importance of on-time performance (OTP) for the regional carrier.
To help airports with keeping QantasLink’s flights on schedule, the airline publishes weekly charts ranking each airport in terms of aircraft turnaround time in a bid to motivate airports to do better.
“We can actually see a dent in our yield in the subsequent weeks after we have a bad week of on-time performance because the market softens, they lose confidence and they are not prepared to pay as much for their ticket,” Chapman said.
“OTP is critical for us as a business and airports assisting us on that is invaluable.
“We are just wanting good turnaround performance as a core skill from our airports. We don’t want them to rush. We just want them to do it safely within the allotted turn time.”
Of the 18 717s, 13 were in a single-class configuration with 125 seats primarily used in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The remaining five were fitted to carry 110 passengers with 12 business and 98 economy class seats and operated out of Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Adelaide and had on-board streaming in-flight entertainment and galleys able to serve hot meals.
Chapman said the use of 717s was the “solution to those routes that are a little bit too thin for a 737 but still demand a high-quality, two-class product”.
“We have been able to really turn those routes around from being frankly loss making with the 737 to now coming out ahead with the right aircraft on the right route,” Chapman said.
“We are a vibrant dynamic, lean, responsible custodian for regional air services in Australia.”
QantasLink has 13 regional lounges in its network, with airport operators keen to get the airline to build new lounges at their airport.
“I’m forever being approached by our airports who want a regional lounge at their airport and give me a huge amount of great reasons why it should be their airport and not others,” Chapman said.
“At the moment we are in a capex freeze.”
The new QantasLink schedule was due to be released on December 4, with the network changes to come into effect on March 29 2015.
Summary of planned QantasLink route changes provided to travel agents:
- End of Gladstone-Rockhampton services
- Rockhampton to Mackay services becomes daily, from double daily
- Mackay to Townsville services becomes three per day, from four per day. Route gets upgraded to Q400
- Cairns to Townsville services becomes five per day, from seven per day. Route gets upgraded to Q400
- Brisbane-Newcastle route gets upgraded to Q400 services, which Qantas said partially offset reduction in Jetstar capacity.
- Brisbane-Gladstone, Brisbane-Rockhampton, and Brisbane-Biloela routes will have capacity reduced “marginally”
- Marginal frequency reductions on Cairns-Weipa, Cairns-Horn Island. Routes get upgraded to Q400
- QantasLink’s Adelaide base will operate only Q300 aircraft. New route due to be announced in coming weeks.