Qantas has finalised an order for nine more A220-300s, taking its confirmed purchase to 29.
The Flying Kangaroo had announced its intention to take delivery of the extra narrowbodies in February but rubber-stamped the decision with Airbus at the Paris Air Show.
Qantas is 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 and 717s with next-generation aircraft.
It also has a firm order placed for 20 of the longer-range A321XLRs and significantly has the potential to purchase 85 more Airbus aircraft in total through to 2034.
CEO Alan Joyce last year said the A220 and A320s would become the “backbone” of Qantas’ domestic fleet for the next 20 years.
“Their range and economics will make new direct routes possible, including serving regional cities better,” he said.
Joyce added these new aircraft and engines would reduce emissions by at least 15 per cent if running on traditional fossil fuels and even more so if using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAFs).
In addition to its domestic overhaul, Qantas is also awaiting 12 A350-1000s that will fly Project Sunrise ultra-long-haul flights from London and New York to Sydney and Melbourne, and one more 787 Dreamliner from Boeing.
However, Qantas’s pilot’s union has argued that new long-haul aircraft aren’t arriving quickly enough to meet demand and that a decision to let Finnair crew operate the Flying Kangaroo’s services to Singapore and Bangkok to mitigate the shortfall was “bitterly disappointing”.
Captain Tony Lucas, president of The Australian and International Pilots Association, said in May the decision illustrated a failure of fleet planning over the last five years.
“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 A330 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. 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.
Meanwhile, subsidiary brand Jetstar has begun welcoming its new fleet of 38 A320neos, comprised of 18 A321LRs and 20 A321XLR aircraft – an even longer-range variant.
Finally, Qantas announced in February it would purchase an additional three A321s it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s. The purchase was in addition to the six more announced in August last year and means it will eventually have a final fleet of 12 A321P2Fs.