Qantas has announced that deliveries under its Project Winton domestic fleet modernisation program will begin from 2023.
The airline has firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s, to gradually replace its current fleet of Boeing 737 and 717 aircraft.
Qantas revealed on Monday that deliveries of its new A220 fleet are expected to begin as soon as late next year, while its A321XLRs will begin deliveries in late 2024.
It comes after the airline in December announced Airbus as its preferred planemaker for its domestic fleet renewal, in a significant blow to Boeing.
The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “The A320s and A220s will become the backbone of our domestic fleet for the next 20 years, helping to keep this country moving.
“Their range and economics will make new direct routes possible, including serving regional cities better.”
Joyce said these new aircraft and engines will reduce emissions by at least 15 per cent if running on traditional fossil fuels, and even more so if using Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and brings the airline closer to its goal of reaching zero-emissions by 2050.
It comes as the airline finally confirmed its order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets, in order to launch its long-awaited Project Sunrise non-stop flights which connect Australia’s east coast cities to major global hubs including London and New York.
The purchase had been delayed numerous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the program itself was placed on ice. However, Qantas on Monday confirmed that flights are on-track to begin from Sydney in late 2025.
“We have come through the other side of the pandemic a structurally different company,” Joyce said.
“Our domestic market share is higher and the demand for direct international flights is even stronger than it was before COVID. The business case for Project Sunrise has an internal rate of return in the mid-teens.
“The board’s decision to approve what is the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the Qantas Group.
“Our strategy for these aircraft will see us generate significant benefits for those who make it possible – our people, our customers and our shareholders.”
Qantas has been evaluating both the A320neo and B737 MAX families, as well as the smaller A220 and Embraer E190/195-E2s, under its Project Winton domestic fleet renewal.
At the time of the decision, Joyce said, “Can I thank Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and the engine manufacturers for the efforts they put into this process.
“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.”
Joyce said a deal with Airbus has the “added advantage” of ongoing flexibility, due to existing arrangements with its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar.
“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,” he added.
“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.”