Qantas’s pilot union has called the decision to let Finnair crew operate the Flying Kangaroo’s services to Singapore and Bangkok “bitterly disappointing”.
Captain Tony Lucas, president of The Australian and International Pilots Association, said the decision illustrates a failure of fleet planning over the last five years.
Qantas announced on Friday that codeshare partner Finnair would operate selected A330 flights from Sydney to the city-state from late October and all flights between Sydney and the Thai capital from March next year.
“It beggars belief that Qantas is outsourcing the Spirit of Australia while simultaneously converting two of our own A330 passenger aircraft into freighters,” said Lucas.
“Not only is it disappointing for our hardworking and dedicated pilots, but it is also disappointing for loyal Qantas passengers.
“Using the words of Qantas, stepping onto one of its aircraft is supposed to ‘feel like home’. Sadly, this won’t be the case for passengers on these flights.
“Getting another carrier to operate our routes is also significantly more expensive than operating the services within Qantas.
“This is a sad day for our great airline.”
The deal will see Finnair’s own pilots and cabin crew operate Qantas-booked flights for the first two-and-a-half years of the agreement, but customers will receive the Flying Kangaroo’s own food and beverage service, amenities, inflight entertainment and baggage allowance.
From late 2025, the aircraft will be fully ‘dry leased’ for up to three years, meaning Qantas pilots and cabin crew will switch to operating the services.
Qantas currently operates 14 flights per week from Sydney to Singapore, but that will increase to 15 from 31 March next year. The service includes QF1 A380 flights between Sydney and London via Singapore, and QF81 flights using smaller A330s.
Finnair, the national carrier of Finland, currently has eight A330s that have a seating capacity of up to 289. Its latest, OH-LTU, was delivered in October 2010.
Lucas’ intervention comes weeks after he told The Australian Qantas must urgently invest in new aircraft to add capacity to international routes.
“We’ve got 49 options (for 787s), but if you order those now, it’s probably three-and-a-half years before the jet turns up,” Captain Lucas said.
“So that means no increase in the main line fleet for the next four years, and at the same time, two A330s have just been sent to Germany to be converted into freighters. At a time when you’re short of passenger capacity, it seems a strange decision to make.”
Qantas is currently in the middle of a huge fleet renewal program that will see it completely overall most of its domestic aircraft, largely replacing its ageing Boeing 737s with next-generation Airbus A321XLRs and A220-300s.
In May last year, the airline firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes and replace its 737s and 717s. The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
It also confirmed a separate order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets to launch its long-awaited Project Sunrise non-stop flights connecting Australia’s east coast cities to major global hubs, including London and New York.
Meanwhile, subsidiary brand Jetstar has begun welcoming the first of its new fleet of 38 A320neos.
Jetstar will take delivery of 18 A321LRs by mid-2024, and a further 20 A321XLR aircraft – an even longer-range variant – between 2024 and 2029.
In addition to aircraft for commercial flights, Qantas in February announced it would purchase an additional three A321s it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s.
The three new A321P2Fs are in addition to its plan to purchase six more announced in August last year. Qantas’s freight division already has three A321P2Fs (passenger to freighters) and plans to also convert two wide-body A330s for cargo use. It means Qantas will have a final fleet of 12 A321P2Fs.
Finally, Qantas has begun to take delivery of three new 787-9s that were delayed by two years.