Qantas to replace A330s with Airbus A350s, Boeing 787s

Get ready to see domestic Dreamliners on Australia’s east-west route.

By David Flynn, August 24 2023
Qantas to replace A330s with Airbus A350s, Boeing 787s

  • 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.

New Qantas 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.”

Domestic Dreamliners

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.

The A330 and its replacement will span both short-to medium and long range routes.
The A330 and its replacement will span both short-to medium and long range routes.

“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.”

Qantas will bolster its Boeing 787 fleet with at least a dozen more Dreamliners.
Qantas will bolster its Boeing 787 fleet with at least a dozen more Dreamliners.

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.

Qantas introduced its modern Business Suite with the A330s in 2014.
Qantas introduced its modern Business Suite with the A330s in 2014.

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.

Get ready for premium economy to and from Perth.
Get ready for premium economy to and from Perth.

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2015

Total posts 35

Interesting choice. This is a pretty big plane so I would doubt it would be used on SYD-PER for example especially with economy in 3-3-3 abreast as Qantas have often said the turnaround times on an A330 are tough to manage and that is only 2-4-2. Also they'd be mad not to have Premium Economy on it, PE is the sweet spot money spinner and would work very well on Asian and US routes. I didn't know the 787-10 could fly as far as PERTH to PARIS  ?

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 149

I hope they keep PE on all of them - I'd pay for a more comfy seat to Perth or into Asia. 

I don't think that we are necessarily going to be seeing a 1 for 1 replacement here; we'd have to expect that some of the A321xlrs will be replacing a330s. With a total of 26 A330s in the fleet right now, I'd guess an order of 12 787-10s to replace the larger -300s. I could also see a top-up of 787-9s with maybe 8-12 to replace some of the -200s and those 747-400ERs and 2 A380s that we lost during the pandemic.

Wouldn't be expecting a premium heavy config on the -10s as Qantas tends to go for leisure-heavy configurations on the Asian routes - maybe 30J and 21W. Not sure about the -9s although would be cool to see all of these new planes get the PS interiors... if they can fit in a Dreamliner?? 

Qantas should definitely put premium economy on these planes if they are to have anything to do with Asian routes. 

Would this then mean having a 'sub-fleet' of 787-10s without premium economy for domestic routes? That makes it much harder to manage the feel, do swaps etc. I would just keep them all in a three-class config, on east-west Qantas could probably still find a market for premium economy as better than economy but nowhere near as expensive as business class, and Platinums and Platinum Ones will of course always be happy for an upgrade from economy.

Besides, Qantas might also want to do these combined domestic+international routes like MEL-PER-LHR but even for Asia, like SYD-PER-SIN or PER-BNEHND, that sort of thing.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 262

I’d pay for Premium Economy for the East and West coast routes! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2022

Total posts 13

Exciting news, and it provides a lot of fleet interoperability. Looking forward to seeing how something like the 787-10 could open up new routes to the likes of India.

QF will shoot themselves in the foot if they forgo PE - post-pandemic, many corporate travel policies for the 8-10 hour legs into Asia now tend towards PE, QF needs to provide the option otherwise they take themselves out of the running of a heap of business spend. SQ even with a stopover becomes hard to turn down if the other option is QF Y and hoping for an upgrade.

12 Aug 2022

Total posts 9

Surely they have to add PE, as others have mentioned managing the fleet and allowing for easy swaps would be a headache with a mixed bag of 787s. I'd pay for PE to Asia, or on the domestic East West run.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 104

I would love to see all B737 retired asap and replaced with the A 330 on all long domestic flights, such as Cairns, Perth and  Darwin where a business class seat means: (business class seat in a 1-2-1 configuration.) I am reluctant to book my next flight to Auckland with Qantas as it appears most metal are Boeings.


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

That's not in the slightest bit practical.

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 43

Completely agree with the comments on PEY. There’s plenty of demand into Asia. Have to say that I find some of the speculation that the a321s will take over a significant number of the Asian routes a little bemusing and I assume made by people who don’t frequently travel those routes. There’s a huge difference in passenger experience on 6-9 hour sectors between a narrow body and wide body aircraft  - even in J. IMO a decision to move QF mainline to a321s would see a further drift towards LCC and ceding of even more of the business travel market to CX, SQ, MH. 

Good news.  Bring on the Brisbane - Chicago service ASAP and as I have stated before, with an early arrival into Chicago at around 7 - 9.00 am.  Not in the mid to late afternoon time frame.

11 Apr 2018

Total posts 31

Brisbane -Chicago would be great but first up gotta replace the A 330 on the LAX route 

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 128

Would it not make sense to forget buying more 787s and move to an all-A350 wide body fleet. There would be greater commonality, easier to swap aircraft, no need to have crews endorsed on to separate brands of aircraft, maintenance, spares etc etc?

With 11 787-8's (JQ) and 14 787-9's on the books already, one would say that continuing on with extra orders makes sense. It's also much smarter businesswise to not have all your eggs in one basket - Maintaining the relationship with Boeing, and therefore better prices for future deals. 

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 128

But a number of those 787s are getting pretty old now (maybe not by Qantas' standards) so an airline that is in a fleet rejuvenation program would be looking at turning them over. Recall at at one stage Qantas was an all-Boeing airline and that did not seem to bother them from the perspective of relationships with the competition.

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 8

I'd prefer A330 neo, I fly economy sometimes on A330, 2 seats by the window if travelling with a partner is the best layout on any widebody 

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

16 Jul 2019

Total posts 27

Good point - which might make PE in a 2-3-2 config very attractive to couples vs 333-333-333 in economy. 

Hopefully the 787-10s maintain the current 42 Business & 28 Premium Economy configuration & the extra length should fit another 6 rows of economy if the 32" pitch is maintained so 220 in Economy to replace current A330-200 international versions. 

Domestic/International configuration may substitute the Row 10 to 12 Business for another 5 rows of economy for a 30 Business , 28 Premium Economy & 265 Economy configuration. & if all come equiped with crew rest areas then the planes can be used for both domestic & international routes without having to build the famous curtain forts on trans-pacific routes. 

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 233

If Joyce has said the 330 is too over spec’ed for transcon and the 787-10 or A350-1000 are even bigger / heavier for 12000-17500km missions - they won’t feature on transcon - maybe the odd tag flight for international that’s it - A321 for QF transcon it is.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2023

Total posts 4

The existence of a 787-9, 787-10 and A350-1000 will give QF a nice trade-up across routes which can be mixed and matched by season for seasonal routes like Johannesburg or Hong Kong. Other than tag services to long haul ex Perth, don't expect to see any other domestic transcontinental widebody services going forward.

I also expect the A321XLR will be deployed on markets like Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila and some Singapore routes where QF can cater to a premium-heavy frequent flyer and corporate loyalty base. This removes the need to replace several A330s on a 1-for-1 basis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2017

Total posts 22

I'm confused... this article says replacement is a 1-1 swap with the old A330s (there are 28 of them) yet this order is for only 24 new aircraft.  Did I miss something?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

Think you mis-read this, the article says "there won’t be a straight 1:1 swap where the 28 A330s make way for 28 of another single type of jet."

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 462

I would not be surprised if we once again see a Sydney via Adelaide to Singapore service even if it's say 5 times weekly with the new planes.both would be ideal for such a flight.for anyone connecting from an International it would say SYD-ADL make life so much easier you would be on a domestic sector of an international flight.Imagine you go from say a 787 to another one the same but maybe a different type or a a350 to a 787 as opposed to connecting to a domestic 737 like one does do immigration if one is from South Australia at the arrival airport with no international to domestic bus needed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 122

No mention of the J product on the new 787’s… 

Will they run with the A350 version or the current one…. Will the a350V fit? Probably not I would suggest 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

My tip is we will see the exact same business class as on the current 787s, this gives 100% product consistency across the entire 787 fleet and also keeps the new A350 business class as something a bit more 'special', besides that if probably wouldn't fit and would also have to be re-certified for the 787.  Much simpler to keep the same 787 business class.

09 Jul 2023

Total posts 3

Looks like Virgin are being left in the dust. No wide bodies or any international routes except for Cairns to Osaka in a lonely MAX. With this massive expansion I really cant see Virgin competing that well.

09 Jul 2023

Total posts 3

Good luck finding enough aircrew for all this. Bonza cant even attract enough pilots for it 737 Max operation.

That'd be why Qantas is opening a new flight training centre in Sydney "which will train up to 4,500 Qantas and Jetstar pilots and cabin crew each year from early 2024" including B787 and A350 full motion flight simulators. Or do you think Qantas hasn't, you know. thought this stuff through?

This is a really fascinating move, replacing the A330s with a 'mixed fleet' of A350s and B787s which also slot into true international operations in a way the A330 never could, apart from Asia/India. Effectively grows the long-range fleet while also raising the bar on east-west where Virgin is still making do with 737s. Having premium economy on these 'domestic' B787 and A350s is a real bonus too, I think Qantas might be surprised by demand once pricing settles down, of course a great way to reward loyalty of Platinum Ones, Platinums and even Golds with some upgrades from economy into an empty premium economy seat on those domestic east-west routes too. I've done premium economy between Sydney and Auckland on the QF 787, if the price is right, a great way to travel.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2023

Total posts 4

I think the way to look at the A330 replacement is that it will be a mix of A321XLRs for existing A330 East-West coast flying and some Asian ports - the remaining Asian ports will get the 787s and possibly some A350s, although I think the A350s will really be about replacing the A380 in the main and upguaging some existing 787-9 routes like LHR-PER.

Longer term the A350s coming in will fly to JNB, HND, DFW, LAX and some SIN from SYD and MEL and the 787s will do the rest (MNL. CGK, PVG, HKG, SIN-PER and non-LAX US cities.

25 Feb 2015

Total posts 55

Yeah I get the economics of limiting to J and Y only (as we see on all the 330s currently), but simply rolling out 3-class for all new wide bodies makes so much more sense to me, in terms of both flexibility, and lifting Qantas to a premium airline that will provide a better experience to key domestic competitor Virgin by default.

Agree that the PE cabin could make for a nice regular upgrade opportunity for higher status flyers (whether random upgrade which would be nice to see more of, or points based).

And I also get that it’s possibly most likely the J product will be same as current 787s. Although it’s a few years old now, I actually think it’s still a pretty good product.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qantas to replace A330s with Airbus A350s, Boeing 787s