Airbus A330, Boeing 777 as next VIP jet for Australian PM?

By David Flynn, January 2 2014
Airbus A330, Boeing 777 as next VIP jet for Australian PM?

Airbus and Boeing could soon be slugging it out over a new fleet of VIP jets for the Australian government.

The Royal Australian Air Force currently leases two ageing Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft for use by the Australian Governor-General, the Prime Minister and other politicians.

But the Boeing 737s are too small to carry a full complement of political support staff, journalists and news crews.

So with the lease on all five VIP jets expiring in 2015, bigger birds are on the table.

The RAAF's prestigious Number 34 Squadron, which is charged with all VIP transport for the Federal Government, will consider buying and leasing arrangements for more modern aircraft fitted with up to date seats and inflight Internet via satellite communications.

The workhorse Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 are likely starters, especially extended range models needed to make non-stop international trips where possible.

"The BBJs are past it for longer haul, full entourage missions" writes Australian aviation journalist Ben Sandilands.

"The small private suite located at the front of the jets when they were delivered was fitted with a heavy low set table dividing four facing seats, two on each side."

Unless you were "very short", Sandlilands recalls, "it was impossible to recline these best seats on the jet without your legs being caught under the table, and sleeping on your side or back would have been impossible."

"The longer legroom two by two seating for the senior advisors and department heads, as well as 16 shorter legroom counterparts at the rear for the media, were inferior to what Qantas later introduced as premium economy in its A380s."

Sandilands recounts how media seats aboard the VIP jet are sold at fares equivalent to Qantas business class, making them "a bad working deal for reporters, who for the same fare paid for by their employers, can fly today in a business class sleeper seat."

Also read: Five fun facts about Air Force One

"Okay guys, now here's how you set up a really good status run..."
"Okay guys, now here's how you set up a really good status run..."

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Apr 2013

Total posts 14

They aren't considering the 787? That would seem a clear choice because of range and efficiency. I read it is being considered as a replacement for Air Force 1. 

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Not if you want delivery by 2015. 

Personally I'm not convinced by the need for the Prime Minister to carry around his own fleet of journalists. If journalists want to go where the Prime Minister is going, then let 'em organise their own darn flights. 

Since it's going to happen anyway, though, it might as well be an A330, because the RAAF already operates four of the tanker version of these.

As for Air Force One being a 787: schya, like the US Presidency is going to downsize any time soon. The next Air Force One will be a 747-8, no doubt about it, and only because an A380 would be politically inconvenient.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Apr 2013

Total posts 14

Good point about delivery, didn't even think about that.

A330 seems a better option over 777. Don't Qantas do maintenance for the current fleet of 737's? If so at least they have A330 capability to continue into the future.


23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

The next Air Force 1 jet will, as Hugo says, be a 747-8. It's more suited to the task required:

- American made

- Four engines (safety and security reasons)

- Top deck for separated communications

- Enough space for private areas, luggage, press and entourage. 

QantasFF Platinum

16 Feb 2012

Total posts 153

Our Govt should be the first to put their hand up and be the lauch customer for the 777-X BBJ or A350 ACJ. Now that would be exciting news!


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 671

"Exciting news" for aviation geeks maybe but totally unrealistic for almost any government, especially the Liberals when they keep saying we are in a 'budget crisis', a 'national emergency' (both phrases used again and again by Treasurer Joe Hockey) and are slashing spending and cutting public service jobs.

It would be political suicide to turn around in the face of this and say "Oh by the way we are buying a fleet of new VIP jets worth over $300m each (list price)".

Plus the fact that these leases expire next year, the A350 won't be ready until at least the middle of 2014 and there's already a long list of customers so the Govt would need to 'take a number and wait', the 777-X is maybe not until 2020, and BOTH are unproven aircraft, unlike the A330 and B777.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 171

With our geographical position, I have always found it funny that our Government only had a BBJ737 when you see other smaller and poorer nations with a much more impressive Government Fleet.  I think the Ukranian Govt. has a B777 and even some of the African nations have A330 or A340 aircraft. 


23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

A couple of 777s makes sense given how far we are from everywhere else. Being able to communicate with the ground, etc, also makes sense in this day and age. It's a bit poor that the PM can't make phone calls to the ground and such. 

However, I say let the press make their own way to foreign shores, at their expense. I get the whole 'keep your friends close, but your enemies closer' thing, but really I don't think it's hard to expect multi billion dollar corporations to fund their own people's travel. 

And if they are to travel on new VIP jets then I would expect the office of the PM to charge the respective media outlets for the expense of carrying journalists (and I use the word 'journalists' very loosely given the rubbish I read in the papers each day). 

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

So, David,  now it's "news" when another "journalist" speculates on an aviation matter?!

Firstly, this story is a perennial offered by Sandilands. See the December 2012 version on the Crikey website.

Secondly, the pitch of the "original" article by News Ltd is whether Abbott can do a deal with the Press to limit critique of the obvious (splashing out lots of taxpayers funds on large aircraft to fly hangers-on around the world) in return for riding on a nice new large jet to be close to a PM that actually has no interest in speaking with the media.

So let's back up a moment - the real question here is whether tax payers money should be splashed on buying silence and favourable coverage from the media. It don't much matter whether it ends up being a Boeing or Airbus.

Besides, I can't imagine the BBJs are "ageing" that much - their duty cycles must be a fraction of those used by typical airlines.

The PM is apparently "in touch" through satellite phone technology and perhaps it is more prudent to let the government itself fly in more than one aircraft to mitigte the risk of the impact of a crash.

Surely the BBJs can have a cabin refit if the desk/table bruises Abbott's delicate knees.

Let's leave alone the obvious - that it would probably be in our national interests if Abbott and Bishop weren't blundering around the world stage causing grief to our relationships with China, Indonesia, etc

And pretty please, if anyone feels like responding, please omit the customary personal insults which are fast turning off me this otherwise excellent web site.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555


1. Stories we run are partly chosen on how they will interest readers, not just being 'hard news'. Especially this time of year when things are quiet on the 'news' front, I'm sure most readers don't mind something a little lighter (and the stats for this story bear that out).

2. "The real question here is whether tax payers money should be splashed on buying silence and favourable coverage from the media. It don't much matter whether it ends up being a Boeing or Airbus" - that's certainly a big angle, and as a journalist it's one that intrigues me - but it's also an angle which News and (especially) Plane Talking have already jumped onto, and political comment is not our schtick.

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Thanks for the clarification, David.

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

24 Dec 2012

Total posts 1

Just an idea. Since Qantas is in such dire monetary need and are searching to get rid of some of their 747/767 early. Would it not make sense for the Australian Gov to buy some 747/767 of Qantas and have Qantas Technical refit the plane for their specifications. That way the Gov helps and technically subsidises Qantas while not directly disturbing the free comepition. I know that some other Gov do it that way. China uses a Air China 747 and the German Gov bought 2 A340 of Lufthansa.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jun 2015

Total posts 46

Great idea

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