Qantas’s penultimate new 787 Dreamliner entered service on Saturday, flying from Melbourne to LAX.
The new wide-body aircraft – registered VH-ZNM and named ‘Mateship’ – only arrived from Boeing’s Everett factory earlier this month but has been quickly put to use.
It means Qantas now has 13 of the aircraft type, with the final delivery of a batch of three due to arrive before the end of June.
The planes – which have been delayed by two years – are necessary for the Flying Kangaroo to increase capacity and launch new routes in time for the crucial Europe and North American summer season.
Like previous Qantas 787-9s, the final trio of aircraft will feature 42 business class lie-flat bed seats, 28 premium economy seats, and 166 economy seats.
CEO Alan Joyce has said the new aircraft will provide additional travel capacity and allow Qantas to keep its fares lower.
Qantas is looking to expand its international services with the 787s and is currently in talks with Air France to develop a direct route from Perth to France, as well as several other additional European locations that would bolster Perth Airport as the country’s western international travel hub.
“We want to do Paris, and we’re talking to Air France and other European airlines about how we could do that,” said Joyce earlier this year.
It comes months after the FAA temporarily banned Boeing from delivering the aircraft to customers, raising doubts as to whether Qantas would receive its aircraft at all. The incident related to concerns around a data analysis error relating to the aircraft’s forward pressure bulkhead.
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. It’s also awaiting 12 A350-1000s that will fly Project Sunrise ultra-long-haul flights from London and New York to Sydney and Melbourne.
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 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.