It’s a good two years until the first Qantas Boeing 787-9 makes its inaugural flight towards the tail end of 2017, but which routes will be graced by the Dreamliner?
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has already name-checked a few possibilities as well as laying out some early criteria which will shape the airline’s Boeing 787-9 destinations, including “opening up new destinations around the globe.”
Even so, Joyce is keenly aware of the challenges in trying to see two years into the future through a cloudy crystal ball.
“The routes we have in mind today will probably be very different to the routes we end up having this aircraft on” says the Qantas chief, who cut his teeth in the local airline industry planning routes and schedules at Qantas and Ansett.
“The actual network the aircraft will end up operating will depend on what we think the market considerations will be at the time.”
Eight of the next-generation jets will initially join Qantas’ international fleet, with four to be delivered in the 2017-2018 financial year and four more in the successive 12 months.
That said, here’s what we know so far.
New long-range routes
Announcing Qantas’ Boeing 787 order, Joyce was quick to call out “long-range routes that we don’t fly today” as a prime example of Dreamliner flights.
“Markets like Melbourne to Dallas open up as an opportunity for us because the aircraft has the potential range to do that in both directions.”
Joyce sees plenty of appeal in mapping the Boeing 787 onto “routes that we want to fly over a hub and go directly into other destinations without having to fly through LA.”
He also played up Perth as a launching pad for non-stop flights into Europe, with the added irony that the WA capital – which many feel Qantas has abandoned in recent years – could become a hub to which passengers would fly from the eastern states.
Joyce added that “a seamless domestic to International transfer was essential for the hub operation and that will become a reality early in the next decade when Qantas’s domestic operations move to the international side of the airport” reports The West Australian.
Routes that can’t justify the jumbo
The first tranche of Dreamliners will replace five Boeing 747s, although this doesn’t mean they will all slot straight into the jumbo’s footprints.
Instead, Joyce sees the Boeing 787 as filling a gap on “routes that have low levels of traffic volumes that didn’t justify a 747.”
Each Qantas Boeing 787-9 will carry around 250 passengers in business class, premium economy and economy compared to an average 360 on the Red Roo’s Boeing 747s.
Read more: Qantas reveals Boeing 787 config
"Because the 787 is smaller than the jumbos it will gradually replace, it gives us the flexibility of having more aircraft without significantly changing our overall capacity,” he explains.
This is only enhanced by the Dreamliners boasting greater range than the Boeing 747s.
“It’s got better range, can operate to routes the 747 can’t with full payload, it is a fantastic replacement aircraft with less risk associated with trying to fill up a smaller aircraft,” Joyce said.
Routes which don’t operate daily, but should
Also playing into the Boeing 787s’ efficiencies – including reduced fuel burn and lower maintenance costs – are “routes that are less frequent which we want to get to daily,” Joyce says.
Once the first eight Dreamliners have been delivered, Qantas will have three more than the five jumbo jets being put out to pasture.
This could help boost some services which operate only a handful of days every week to the daily schedule which business travellers value.
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