Qantas will let the first of its 15 Boeing 787 options lapse later this month, CEO Alan Joyce has told Reuters.
The first of those 15 options was due to be exercised in February, while Joyce says Qantas would make a decision on firming up further options into firm orders in a “few more months”, the Qantas boss told Reuters’ Jamie Freed in an interview ahead of the Singapore Airshow on February 5.
Qantas currently holds firms orders for eight 787-9s, the first three of which have now been delivered. Beyond that the airline holds 15 options and 30 purchase rights on the aircraft, but last October Joyce said a decision on exercising some of those options won’t be taken until some point in 2018 after seeing how the first aircraft perform in service.
“There will be a gap, we do need to bed down the  operation, make sure that everything is working,” Joyce told media at Boeing’s Everett plant on October 15 ahead of the delivery of the airline’s first 787-9, VH-ZNA.
“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 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.
In October Joyce hinted a 787 fleet in the “teens” was likely at the minimum.
“We’ve always said that the eight aircraft that we have as an example of the 787s is a minimum,” he said.
“We’d like to have a lot more than that. You actually do have to get in the teens, I think, for the aircraft to have a minimum flyable level of operation. Eventually, we will be ordering more of the 787s because we think it’s a great aircraft. It’s just at what pace of time that we do that.”