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Qantas to replace 737s with A320neo and A220s

written by Adam Thorn | December 16, 2021

A Qantas illustration shows what its new A220-300s could look like in a new livery.

Qantas is set to replace its ageing Boeing narrowbodies with Airbus’ A320neo and A220 families of aircraft, in a significant blow to the American planemaker.

The Australian flag carrier will initially place an order for 20 A321XLR (extra long-range) and 20 A220s but will have the option to purchase a further 94 over 10 years as its 737-800s and 717s are phased out.

The order is in addition to Jetstar’s existing agreement with Airbus for over 100 aircraft in the A320neo family, and the new deal means these orders can be combined. The business added it received a “material discount” from the list price.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the airline was in a position to make these commitments because of the way it had navigated the COVID pandemic.

“Can I thank Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and the engine manufacturers for the efforts they put into this process,” said Joyce. “This was a very tough choice to make. Each option delivered on our core requirements around safety, capability and emissions reductions. But when you multiply even small benefits in areas like range or cost across this many aircraft and over the 20 years they’ll be in the fleet, Airbus was the right choice as preferred tenderer.


“The Airbus deal had the added advantage of providing ongoing flexibility within the order, meaning we can continue to choose between the entire A320neo and A220 families depending on our changing needs in the years ahead. The ability to combine the Jetstar and Qantas order for the A320 type was also a factor.

“The A320 will be new for Qantas Domestic, but we already know it’s a great aircraft because it’s been the backbone of Jetstar’s success for more than 15 years and more recently operating the resources industry in Western Australia.

“The A220 is such a versatile aircraft which has become popular with airline customers in the United States and Europe because it has the capability to fly regional routes as well as longer sectors between capital cities.

“The combination of small, medium and large jets and the different range and economics they each bring means we can have the right aircraft on the right route.

“For customers, that means having more departures throughout the day on a smaller aircraft, or extra capacity at peak times with a larger aircraft. Or the ability to start a new regional route because the economics of the aircraft make it possible.

“We have some exciting plans for the next-generation cabins we’ll put on these aircraft, which will offer improvements for passengers that we’ll share in coming months.

“Importantly, these aircraft will deliver a step change in reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions compared with our current fleet, which gets us closer to the net zero target we’ve set,” added Joyce.


Today’s news marks the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation history and follows Qantas evaluating the A320neo and B737 MAX families as well as the smaller A220 and Embraer E190/195-E2s.

“The initial firm order concentrates on the larger, single-aisle A321XLR, and the mid-size A220-300 with purchase right options for the smaller A220-100, giving Qantas a fleet mix that can deliver better network choices and route economics,” said the business in a statement.

“The XLR can carry around 15 per cent more passengers on each flight than the airline’s existing B737-800s, making it well suited to busy routes between capital cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Its longer range means it can also be used to open up new city pairs.

“The small and medium size A220s provide the group with flexibility to deploy these aircraft throughout most of its domestic and regional operations. They could be used during off peak times between major cities and on key regional routes to increase frequency.

“Both aircraft types will be powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF™ engines and will deliver fuel savings of between 15-20 per cent, contributing to the airline’s broader emission reduction efforts.”

Airbus A320 family

  • Includes the Airbus A320neo and A321neo
  • A320neo seats – from 150 to 180 for a two-class configuration, 6,300km range
  • A321neo seats – from 180 to 220 for a two-class configuration, 7,400km range
  • A321XLR seats – from 180 to 220 for a two-class configuration, 8,700km range
  • The A320neo family offers fuel improvements of 14 per cent from A320ceos
  • 50 per cent quieter than the A320ceos
  • Pratt & Whitney GTF™ (PW1100G-JM) engines

Airbus A220

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Comments (25)

  • Matty


    A Qantas fleet of A220’s will do nasty things to Bonza’s route modelling.

    • Peter


      Yes, I wonder too, how this will effect Bonza’s plans. Already thought Bonza’s hopes of surving in the aviation market was precarious at best. Now, with the A220, and Qantas’ ability to use this aircraft’s flexibility to regional areas. How can Bonza hope to compete?
      Always been a Boeing man. But they leave me cold after the 737 MAX issues. Cant wait to fly on the A321XLR.
      Just one thing Mr Joyce, you’re (QANTAS management) are taking credit for navigaimng your way through the lockdowns etc with the pandemic. You wouldnt have gotten through it without the tax payers handouts!!

      • Mitchell


        Why the ‘cheap shot’ in singling out QANTAS re: Fed govt funding during pandemic?

        Rex has received more millions’ $ than QANTAS, thanks to its’ DCEO Sharp being a ‘mate’ of former DPM McCormack.
        He then goes & barges onto the so-called ‘golden triangle’, with his very old, second hand Boeings’.
        Let’s hope he keeps them well maintained, along with his ‘ancient’ Saabs’.

        He should stick to his Qld Govt’s ‘largesse’ of regional routes.

        It’ll be interesting to see how long Rex lasts on the above routings’, as its’ initial iteration was poorly patronised.

  • Kenneth


    Happy to see the A220 entering the Australian market.
    Considering other carriers (Alliance, Cobham and Pionair) are going for Embraer, I thought Qantas would have done the same. But happy to have been proven wrong.

  • Rod Pickin


    From my observations the two main factors within practical aviation management are Options and Flexibility. To me this Airbus deal is a superb fit for this time, well done to those at “The Red Rat”

    • Vannus


      Never in my days have heard QANTAS referred to as the ‘red rat’. Must be airport workers’ jargon only.

      Their aircrafts’ empanage has a ‘WHITE ‘roo’ on it.
      Have heard it called the ‘big WHITE rat’, though.

      • Ian Deans


        Red rat has been common airline speak for many years (even though it is white.) It just refers to the red livery that QF has (almost) always used.

  • WE


    Interesting indeed that the replacement in the middle is not clear at all. Another one waiting for the 220-500? The pressure to release this one is mounting or might well be already agreed upon. Let’s see.

    • Rocket


      I wouldn’t be surprised to see the JQ 787-8s being transferred to QF to replace the A330s, two of which are being converted to Freighters (one for Domestic and one for International) and JQ replacing much of their international services with A321XLRs.

      This would seem to make the most sense in the long term and provide a QF/JQ fleet mix of A220, A320 family for both mainlines, 321XLR mix for medium long haul and 787s for QF Domestic and International and 787-9s for long haul international, ultimately then A350-1000ULRs for Ultra Long Haul (Project Sunrise from the East Coast).

  • Craigy


    The question is: are the 20 A321XLR in addition to the 36 already on order?

    • James


      Believe they are in addition to the other 20.

      Also not entirely clear but either Jetstar and Qantas can take planes out of the order. So doesn’t exclude Qantas getting some of the A320’s and A321’s already on order.

  • Vannus


    Best move ever, as various Airbus models take containers in hold.
    There’re other advantages’ of Airbus jets in the long run for QANTAS, too.

    Boeing 737MAX does not.
    End of.

  • Alan Griffiths


    When you look at a decision between the Boeing 737 and Airbus’ A320, surely it’s obvious – the 737 is based on an early 1950s design (the 707) that has been stretched well beyond its original design parameters – look at the fun of fitting engines that were larger in diameter than any ever thought of in the earlier utterances of the design – and a base design in the A320 family that has not yet gotten near its maximum. The differences in the two airframes are enormous – baggage handling; control systems; model pilot interoperability/commonality; etc, etc. Old technology vs new technology – it’s a no brainer.

  • Mick


    Gotta keep the French happy some how after all the military contracts that have been taken Away from them, I sense appeasement??

    • samir


      Airbus is not just French.

  • Andross


    Exciting to see the A220 coming to Australia! But not mentioned here is that this represents terrible news for Boeing, since Qantas, a previously firm Boeing supporter has now all but completely flipped to Airbus, only the 787s and a handful of aging 767s remain in their fleet now.

  • Lhano Martins Xavier Junior


    To be honest, the A320 and A321 is better for Qantas, because his subsidiary JetStar.
    The A220 is good and E190/195E2 too, but the A220 have more range and ETOPS, the E190/195 is good, but his ETOPS is only 120 minutes and A220 180 minutes. With A220 is easy to create routes for Port Vila and Apia (Faleolo) for example, and bye 717 is too old, basically a DC9!!!

  • chris


    Let’s not forget that the A220 is actually a Canadian design i.e. the Bombardier C SERIES. Any other designation is a rebranding exercise from the marketing department.

  • Peter


    Airbus all the way!!
    Good choice Qantas!
    Now, you have 220 pilots from Tigerair sittng on the ground ready to employ.

    • samir


      Tigerair pilots are a long way from being deployable.

  • PaulE


    Now, on to the selection of the renewed fleet of wide body jets.

  • Neil


    Great choice by Qantas to select the Airbus A320/A321ELRNeo family Narrow Body Jets. Unfortunately the Boeing 737 Max s have been far too problematic. There is a good cross integration with both types of the Airbus A320/A321,with the technology,& maintenance between Qantas and JetStar. The 737-800NG , while being a great workhorse was badly in need of replacement, while having basically a similar airframe of 3 versions, then the MAX, dating all the way back to1967!The Airbus A220 will also be a good selection on the thinner Routes, or busier Routes between the Capitals outside Peak periods, Though I will miss the Boeing 717s.Always liked flying in them when they were flying in NT,& WA. Last of the great Aussie Rear Engine Jets AKA,DC9s,Boeing 727s.

  • Steve


    Another big thing is the switch back to Pratt & Whitney – with geared fan – after a long dalliance with GE/CFM and RR and turbo fans running directly off a turbine stage. It must be decades since QANTAS last chose Pratt & Whitney – JTD8 for 737 and JTD9 for 747?

  • Ian Deans


    Great to see Airbus eventually replacing the Boeing fleet. I wonder if Ansett had not gone with the A320 back in the 1980s would we have seen this happen.

  • Aydin


    I would have never flown in the Max and Im sure I am not alone so, good choice Alan.

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