Qantas is unlikely to pull the trigger on its full set of 45 orders and options for the Boeing 787, but the airline is open to adding the new Boeing 787-10 into the mix.
Qantas Group Alan Joyce has previously said he’d like to take all 45, enthusing "I'd like to order all of them if I can make a good return out of them, but now sees a different path ahead – one which means fewer Dreamliners in the fleet.
The size of the initial order, which stretches back to 2005, reflected Qantas’ intention to have the Boeing 787 replace the Airbus A330 on domestic routes.
But Joyce no longer plans to put the Boeing 787 onto domestic routes, he told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the delivery of the first Qantas Dreamliner in Seattle last week.
"Our thinking has evolved... while the 787 as with the A330 are pretty powerful they are over-spec'd" for domestic flights, "so the economics do not work."
Instead, Qantas will revamp its domestic fleet from the mid-2020s with either the advanced Boeing 737 MAX or the Airbus A320neo and the yet-to-be-built mid-sized Boeing 797, which would also pick up some flights into south-east Asia.
So where does that leave Qantas' 45-strong order book for the Boeing 787?
“These are going to be great aircraft and we're going to want to take quite a lot of them over time (but) I don't think we're going to need (all 45),” says Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans, the former Qantas Group CFO who, after 2½ years heading the airline’s international arm, moves into the orange hot-seat at Jetstar next week.
“We’ve got eight for Qantas plus 11 already in Jetstar, plus another 45 which is more than enough,” Evans told Australian Business Traveller in Seattle. "I don't think we're going to need that many.”
Qantas will consider a second tranche of Boeing 787-9 deliveries from late 2019 or early 2020, with Paris and Germany already pencilled in as likely European destinations.
“Because of their size and flexibility there’s also great potential for Asia as well,” Evans said.
Evans said that Qantas could also sign up for the Boeing 787-10, which launches in early 2018 and can carry more passenger than the 787-9 over a slightly shorter range – although one that’s still sufficient for high-demand routes such as Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
“We've got a very flexible order stream so we can decide what we take and when (with) the ability to flick between 787-8’s for Jetstar and -9s or even -10s for Qantas,” Evans allowed.
“It's obviously all got to be balanced and the business case has got to stack up, but with Boeing there's lots of flexibility to move those things around.”
David Flynn travelled to Seattle as a guest of Qantas