Qantas' Boeing 737 aircraft fleet up for sale

By John Walton, April 4 2011
Qantas' Boeing 737 aircraft fleet up for sale

Qantas has put 21 of its older and least fuel-efficient planes up for sale, a week after announcing emergency cost-cutting measures: fare hikes, flight schedule cuts and the retirement of Boeing 767 aircraft.

To replace the aircraft it's trying to sell, Qantas expects to receive 14 brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft this year. Some of these planes will include the spacious and feature-filled Boeing Sky Interior, which is based on the Boeing 787 Qantas expects to receive in 2012

The sale of the older planes is good news for frequent flyers, who will see quieter and more reliable aircraft on their flights, with more features like power points and in-flight entertainment.

But while new aircraft are larger and more efficient, there are only 14 aircraft on order to replace the 21. As a result, travellers are likely to see schedule changes since Qantas will have a third fewer aircraft to use.

The older 737s up for sale are expected to fetch A$20 million each according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, and could help Qantas bolster its sagging finances.

(Update: The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) says in a report that Qantas is likely to receive only a fraction of that, with similar planes in good condition going for $3-4 million. However, Qantas hasn't exactly been one careful old lady owner: CAPA says "the value of the Qantas aircraft could be even less than USD3 million given the number of cycles they have flown".)

But Qantas' decision comes at an unfortunate time, given the weekend's emergency on a Southwest Airlines 737 of a similar vintage, where part of the aircraft ceiling peeled off in flight.

Qantas' 737-400 planes are all older than the Southwest 737, and uncertainty around the continuing lifespan and safety -- not to mention sky-high jet fuel prices to fill up the older and less fuel-efficient aircraft -- could well lower the market price for the planes.

Read more about Qantas on Australian Business Traveller and let us know what you think in a comment below or via Twitter: @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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