Qantas is preparing to phase out the Boeing 717 from its network by mid-2024, with the model to be replaced by more fuel-efficient Airbus A220s as part of the “Project Winton” fleet renewal program.
QantasLink’s 20 717s will gradually be taken out of its fleet in favour of 29 new A220-300s, which have 25 per cent more seats – 137, compared to 110 on the 717 – as well as twice the range and 28 per cent lower fuel burn per seat. The first A220 is expected to arrive later this year.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, QantasLink CEO John Gissing described the retirement of the 717 as “bittersweet”, and said the last one will leave by next July.
“It’s an amazing aeroplane. It’s been the backbone of the regional operation for some time,” he said. “But today is about renewal, and the A220 is also an amazing aeroplane. Like the 717, it is a game changer for the regional jet operation.
“The range is twice the range of the 717. It’s new technology, super-quiet cabin, high-bypass geared turbofan engine, an amazing cabin amenity that customers are going to love. It will be able to connect markets that we can’t at the moment with that size of aircraft.”
At a media event, the Flying Kangaroo farewelled VH-NXI, the first 717 registered in Australia, which has been sold to a North American carrier and will leave the Qantas fleet in June. It has operated for QantasLink since 2006, and was previously flown by Jetstar and Impulse Airlines.
“It’s fitting that the very first 717 to be registered in this country is making way for another brand-new fleet type, the A220, which can operate double the range of the 717s opening up new domestic and short-haul international routes,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
“Qantas is in the early stages of the biggest fleet renewal program in its history, with up to 299 narrowbody aircraft spread over 10-plus years as well as the A350s that will operate our Project Sunrise flights.
“We’ve already taken delivery of four new aircraft this year and we’re on track to receive another eight before the end of the year. The new aircraft we’re receiving are much more capable than the aircraft they’re replacing. They can fly further while being much quieter and more efficient and providing a great experience for our passengers.”
Joyce also hailed as good news the fact that VH-NXI and other QantasLink 717s are being sold on and will continue flying rather than being sent to the scrapyard.
“What’s great is that we’re actually able to sell these aircraft for value,” he said. “They’re not actually worth nothing, they are actually worth some money and they’re being sold.
“It’s great that Qantas’ aircraft, with how well they’re maintained and how well they’re operated, seem to actually have alternative use for people around the globe.”
Currently, Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines – both US-based – are the only two other carriers to still operate the Boeing 717.