- Qantas will retire its Airbus A330s with a mix of A350s and 787s
- Initial Boeing order includes both 787-9 and 787-10 models
- Domestic Dreamliners tipped to include premium economy
It’s out with the old and in with the new, or at least the newer, as Qantas moves to replace its workhorse Airbus A330s with a fresh tranche of two dozen Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 orders from 2027-2028.
Yes, you read that right: there won’t be a straight 1:1 swap where the 28 A330s make way for 28 of another single type of jet.
Instead, Qantas will share post-A330 duties between 12 Airbus A350-1000s and 12 Boeing 787s.
Those A350s will be separate to their Project Sunrise siblings, although Executive Traveller understands they will be fitted with the same seats as the Sunrise jets, including private business class suites, but without first class or the Project Sunrise Wellbeing Zone.
Meanwhile, the Boeing 787 order will be split between four Boeing 787-9s, of which Qantas already has 14 in its hangars, and eight of the ‘stretched’ 787-10 version, which can carry more passengers but over a slightly reduced range.
Qantas Chief Financial Officer and incoming CEO Vanessa Hudson tells Executive Traveller the twin-aisle upgrade program “will start with replacing the (first) A330 in 2027” on a Boeing 787.
First to the knackery will be the oldest A330s, while younger jets scheduled to leave the fleet towards the end of the replacement program will “undergo a cabin refurbishment” beginning in 2025-2026, including new economy seats and a refresh and modernisation of the interiors, although the same original-gen business class seats will remain in place.
Hudson says Qantas also holds additional purchase rights and options with both Airbus and Boeing “to give flexibility for future growth.”
Like the Airbus A330s, the 787s and potentially A350s will feature on key domestic routes such as Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth as well as short- to medium-range routes to New Zealand and Asia, while also being able to tackle longer treks to North America as well as direct European destinations from Perth.
Hudson said the flexibility of these jets fitted into what Qantas calls its ‘right aircraft, right route’ approach, which will also leverage the vastly extended range of the forthcoming Airbus A220 and A321XLR jets over the Boeing 717s and 737s they replace.
“They have a range and capability that can be deployed or deployed across different routes and route networks, and we can move those aircraft around across both domestic and also international,” Hudson tells Executive Traveller.
“We’ll actually get growth from these aircraft as well, because they have a fantastic range, they have better fuel efficiency and they are also going to enable us to open more routes across the Pacific, but also into Europe and also Asia.”
While Qantas has completed its order for fourteen Boeing 787-9s assigned to long-range and ultra-long range flying and has no further 787s on the books, the airline has cited Paris, Chicago and Seattle as future routes for non-stop Dreamliner flights.
For their part, the Airbus A330s were the launchpad for the Business Suite at the end of 2014 – a modern business class seat that’s since appeared on the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 – with the domestic jets also fitted with fast and free WiFi.
The Qantas 787-10
The 787-10 is the largest member of Boeing’s Dreamliner family, with Qantas flying the mid-sized 787-9 and Jetstar the debutante 787-8.
Although the 787-10 is some 5.5 metres longer than the -9 when measured from tip to tail, giving it the ability to carry more passengers and cargo but over a slightly reduced range; Boeing rates the -10’s reach at just shy of 12,000km, against the 787-9’s 14,140km range.
Those metrics help pit the 787-10 as a rival to the mid-sized A330, which has long been Qantas’ stalwart on the east-west transcontinental trek along with most routes into Asia.
(Even Qantas’ longest current Asian route, from Melbourne to New Delhi, falls comfortably within the 787-10’s range.)
Executive Traveller understands that the new 787s – including the 787-10 – will share the same configuration as the current jets, including a premium economy cabin, so that a ‘domestic’ Dreamliner can easily be moved onto international routes.
Although there’s no established market for premium economy on even Australia’s longest domestic east-west routes, but it’s a must-have in the long-range flying mix and arguably could have strong appeal on flights between Australia and Asia, especially on overnight return legs.