Next up for Qantas: Boeing 737 MAX vs Airbus A320neo

By David Flynn, November 25 2014

The Qantas Boeing 737-800 'RetroRoo' is notable for more than just its funky 1970s livery – it's also the last of 75 Boeing 737-800s on the airline's order book, leaving Qantas to ponder a next-gen replacement for its domestic workhorse in the form of the Boeing 737 MAX or the Airbus A320neo.

"At some point over the next few years we'll have to consider what's next" Qantas chief financial officer Gareth Evans told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the RetroRoo's delivery ceremony in Seattle.

Qantas enjoys a relatively young 737-800 fleet – "our oldest 737-800 is 2002 vintage, so it's just middle age" Evan says – "but from a medium- to long-term perspective the next major decision for our domestic fleet is the 737 MAX or A320neo."

Both the Boeing 737 MAX (below) and Airbus A320neo use high-efficiency engines with refined aerodynamics such as new wingtip designs to deliver fuel savings estimated at 13-15%,  along with lower operating costs and reduced noise.

Virgin Australia has already made its call in favour of the Boeing 737 MAX, and has in fact brought forward the first delivery of 23 jets to 2018, while Air New Zealand has chosen the A320neo to sharpen the Kiwi carrier's competitive edge against Qantas on the trans-Tasman market.

Read: Virgin Australia brings forward Boeing 737 MAX: first flights in 2018

"For Qantas we have to evaluate over the next couple of years what's the right aircraft for domestic routes – is it the Neo or the MAX?" ponders Evans. "They're both good aircraft, they're the next step in terms of efficiency, particularly around fuel burn of the engines."

Jetstar has already inked an order for 99 of the A320neo jets from 2016, although Qantas has not ruled out drafting some of the fuel-efficient aircraft into its own red-tail domestic fleet.

For now, following the late December retirement of its last Boeing 767-300, Qantas will enjoy a simplified domestic fleet comprising of the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330-200.

While the A330s will mainly feature on transcontinental flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Perth, they'll also be seen more often on east coast routes such as Sydney-Melbourne where they will fill in for the 767-300.

"We will predominately have the A330-200s flying east-west but at the beginning and end of the day they will do some east coast 'triangle' sectors and then they will go on to Perth" Evans says.

This will let some east coast commuters spend those short flights luxuriating in lie-flat beds as the A330s are upgraded with the new Qantas Business Suite.

David Flynn visited Seattle as a guest of Qantas and Boeing.

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David

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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Using the flat bed on SYD-MEL....  By the time it extends into the bed, it will be time to put it up again haha.

QFF Gold QC gold

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 56

I would imagine Qantas favouring A320neo as a long term strategy for domestic if JetStar is going that way. Why wouldn't you simplify fleet across both brands for possible fleet sharing when needed. That way if Qantas was naughty and was able to get away with moving maintenance for QF and JS to a JetStar maintenance model then that will help with maintenanc costs.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1137

I have a soft spot for the B737.  I've always loved their non-circular intake engines and the somewhat quizzical appearance of the cockpit windshields.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 305

I 100% agree.

31 Aug 2013

Total posts 61

With the large backlogs for both aircraft types, availability combined with long term support offerings are most likely to dictate the order.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 517

Well Qantas already has order commitments for A320Neo. Though flagged to go to Jetstar it wouldn't be hard to mix deliveries up to get around any line issues. That said for the time being does Qantas need any more aircraft in this size? Domestic has reached near capacity, there are no old narrow bodies to be replaced, so maybe nothing for a few years.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 517

The rumor mill in 2001 said that Qantas had chosen and places a letter of intent (not annouced) for the purchase of the A320 as the 737 replacement. But of course two things happened in September 2001 that changed everything. Ansett collapsed requiring Qantas to ramp up domestic capacity quickly and 9/11 saw a shed load of 737's slots become available quickly.

End result 738 for Qantas introduced in a timeframe that couldn't be done changing to A320's. As for the A320's in the LOI, well they are the ones with Jetstar.

This time around, maybe the A320 will win out, as it did in 2001. 

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

I LOVED flying the Ansett A320 'Skystar' - it was so spacious and beautifully decked out.   The extra width and space is noticeable in the A320 range - the 737 feels cramped in comparison.  I hope Qantas goes for the A320 and gives it the Ansett name as a nod to a great flying experience. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1137

I dunno. I flew QF's B738 to NOU and SB's A320 back both in Y and distinctly felt more comfortable in QF. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 May 2013

Total posts 25

Since the Qantas Group has 99 A320neos on order for JQ it would be only logical that a few could be sprayed on QF metal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 20

if its new its JQ i guess

 

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 517

This myth has been debuked elsewhere. Over the past 10 years or so, Qantas has had more new aircraft than Jetstar. Think of all those 737's that have come on-line, plus the A380's and A330-300's and later build A330-200's

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 20

you right i guess i didnt think like that


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