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Qantas to buy 12 new Dreamliners and 12 A350s

written by Adam Thorn | August 24, 2023

Victor Pody shot Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner, VH-ZNN “Snowy River”, on its arrival at Melbourne Airport.

Qantas has confirmed it will order 12 new 787 Dreamliners and 12 Airbus A350s to replace the bulk of its ageing A330 fleet.

The news means outgoing CEO Alan Joyce will leave the company having overseen what is likely the last significant aircraft order for a decade.

He hailed the investment as a “generational decision” and said the new fleets would be operating for 20 years.

It comes days after international news agency Reuters broke the news of the Dreamliner order and following criticism the airline doesn’t have enough aircraft capable of flying international routes.

The purchase is significantly in addition to the previously announced Project Winton and Sunrise orders. It will consist of four Boeing 787-9 and eight 787-10 aircraft, alongside 12 traditional A350-1000s.


“Both the 787 and A350 and the GE and Rolls Royce engines fitted to them are thoroughly proven and extremely capable,” said Joyce.

“These are generational decisions for this company. The aircraft will arrive over a decade or more, and they’ll be part of the fleet for 20 years. They’ll unlock new routes and better travel experiences for customers and new jobs and promotions for our people.”

CEO designate Vanessa Hudson said, “We effectively started these negotiations off the back of the narrowbody and Sunrise campaigns, and that momentum helped deliver pricing and delivery slots that makes this an excellent opportunity for the Group.

“Our ability to afford these aircraft comes from years of restructuring and strengthening our balance sheet and our confidence about the future. Our entire fleet plan has a lot of flexibility built into it, so we can slow down deliveries or, within reason, bring them forward depending on the broader market.

“The phasing of these orders mean they can be funded within our debt range and through earnings, on top of continuing shareholder returns in line with our financial framework.

“This deal gives the Qantas Group access to sustainable aviation fuel supplies out of the United States, making us one of the first airlines in the world to have a pathway to achieving our 2030 SAF targets,” added Ms Hudson.

The planes are necessary for Qantas to increase capacity and launch new routes.

In particular, the airline has previously said it is in talks with Air France to develop a direct route from Perth to France, as well as several other additional European locations.

“We want to do Paris, and we’re talking to Air France and other European airlines about how we could do that,” said CEO Alan Joyce earlier this year.

Qantas received its last 787, VH-ZNN’ Snowy River’, last month, after taking delivery of VH-ZNM, named ‘Mateship’ and VH-ZNL, ‘Billabong’.

Like previous Qantas 787-9s, the final three aircraft feature 42 business class lie-flat bed seats, 28 premium economy seats, and 166 economy seats.

Qantas is currently undergoing a major fleet renewal program, dubbed Project Winton, which previously meant it would either buy or have purchase rights to up to 299 narrow-body and 12 wide-body aircraft for delivery over the next decade.

Project Winton is an Airbus-heavy plan, which includes nine more A321s that Qantas will then convert into freighters; 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets to launch Project Sunrise; and 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 29 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes.

However, Qantas’s pilot’s union had argued that new long-haul aircraft weren’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.

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Comment (1)

  • Yes it is great that we have this announcement! understandably there is a lot of detail yet to be published but even at this early stage some concerns are very evident. Replacing A330’s with B787’s??? – I would have thought there would be massive savings by investing in the A330/8/9 NEO eg crew familiarity/less training needs and qualifications/ type conversions/base maintenance and not the opposite costs that would be involved with the B767 additional setup. It would also appear that in this total upgrade, considerable reliance is to me made by more single aisle medium to long haul utilisation of the A321LR/ULR which may well not be to the liking of our market but yes, it is still early to determine. Don’t you just love the political speak “12 Traditional A350-1000’s” Does this mean Airbus can’t, won’t or is unable to supply a version with additional tankage that we need for our planned direct flights to LHR or JFK? – If that be the case, will all the fleet be configured for ULH in which case why not stick to the basic -9 with the new “plumbing”, do we even need 12 units configured ULH? even at this early stage we should know the entry date into our fleet timings especially as in another place QF has announced the year of the end of the A380, even then what will replace it? – not too many options there! Come on QF, we used to be pace setters, unfortunately these days we appear not to be able to keep up the pace, move it!

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