Qantas’ final Boeing 787 touches down

The ‘Snowy River’ Dreamliner adds to a much-needed fleet expansion.

By David Flynn, July 23 2023
Qantas’ final Boeing 787 touches down

Almost 20 years after Qantas first ordered the Boeing 787 under then-CEO Geoff Dixon, the last of the red-tailed Dreamliners has arrived in Australia.

The 787-9, christened ‘Snowy River’, flew into Melbourne this morning after making the 16-hour trans-Pacific trek from Boeing’s plant at Everett, 40km north of Seattle.

(Ironically, it could be returning to Seattle on a regular basis if Qantas carries through with plans to begin direct flights to the Pacific Northwest city.)

It’s the last Dreamliners in a current fleet of 14, and like its two predecessors has actually spent the better part of two years in hibernation at a dedicated aircraft storage facility in Victorville, California when their intended delivery in 2020 was delayed by the global pandemic.

The ‘Snowy River’ will quickly be pressed into service as Qantas races to bring its international capacity back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2024.

Domino effect

This will include the return of the final Airbus A380s; those superjumbo and the boosted 787 fleet will free up more Airbus A330s, especially those needed on Australia’s east-west routes.

Those twin-aisle jets with their 1-2-1 business class flatbeds are a vital weapon in Qantas’ battle with Virgin Australia, given the arch-rival’s fleet is limited to the Boeing 737 and its more conventional two-abreast recliners.

“We do want to put more A330s onto east-west,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Perth ratio station 6PR earlier this year.

“We’re the only airline now that flies wide-bodies on east-west… we have put more on in recent months but at the moment because our A380s are taking a while to reactivate, the A330s are being used to help grow international operations.”

“Eventually as the A380s come back into operation we’ll be bring those (A330s) back onto the domestic operation to upgrade services between the east and the west.”

Qantas will also lease two Finnair A330s – featuring that airline’s impressive Air Lounge ‘sofa bed' business class seat – for Sydney-Singapore and Sydney-Bangkok.

More Dreamliners on the way?

Melbourne-Singapore will see a Boeing 787 most days of the week beginning in August, and Qantas has also cited Paris, Chicago and Seattle as potential new 787 routes.

Might Qantas draw the line at these 14 Dreamliners, or could more be headed into the hangars?

When Qantas and Boeing signed on the dotted line in December 2005 it was for a package deal of up to 115 jets, partnering 45 ‘firm orders’ with 70 more in options and purchase rights.

While the 787s helped replace the ageing and fuel-thirsty Boeing 747 jumbo jets, at one stage they were also slated to take over from the Airbus A330 on domestic routes.

However, as Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller in 2017 , “our thinking has evolved… while the 787s as with the A330s are pretty powerful, they are over-spec’d" for domestic flights, “so the economics do not work.”

That could change in the coming years, with Qantas now preparing to retire its 24 A330s in favour of fresh mid-sized jets which will take domestic and international routes under their wings.

Qantas chief financial officer and CEO-designate Vanessa Hudson says the call will go out “in the second half of this year”; Airbus is expected to put forward its next-gen A330neo aircraft as a like-for-like replacement, while Boeing will steer Qantas towards the 787 Dreamliner. 

Would love to see more 787s get ordered. I really don't think 14 is enough to replace 2 A380s and all the 747s... it just isn't enough; and they're trying to expand to new markets at the same time! They need more, it simply isn't enough, most destination are underserved in terms of pre-pandemic service, and basic demand these days.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 366

Yes, I tend to agree. Also, only 10 of the original 12 A380s are being returned to service.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 442

They need at least another 14 787s right now!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 340

Totally 💯 disagree as I really don’t like those B787 nightmare liners!!

The A330NEO and A350 are the way forward for Qantas!

13 Apr 2020

Total posts 8

Can’t speak to the economics, but as a passenger I’ve been repeatedly disappointed with the 787. Haven’t flown an A330NEO but I do agree the A350 is great. 

Didn't realize this was the last one when i saw it at PAE doing test runs last month. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 229

This might not be relevant to the article and I apologise in advance, however does anyone know when QF will announce their decision on the A330 replacements? 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2551

The 'contest' to replace the A330s has not yet been opened. Incoming Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson said that would happen in the second half of this year - and it'll be a closer contest than for Sunrise, as the aircraft that Airbus and Boeing will be putting forward are not only both flying (unlit Boeing's 777X prop for Sunrise) but Qantas has real experience with both (well, A330 not A330neo). So I'd expect the announcement of which aircraft will replace the A330 would happen sometime in the first half of 2024.

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