Qantas considering ultra-long range Airbus A350-900ULR

By David Flynn, June 3 2016

Qantas is weighing up the ultra-long range Airbus A350 for its post-2020 fleet as the airline begins to redraw its network map around non-stop flights of 16+ hours.

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference in Dublin this week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he was "absolutely" looking at the A350-900ULR, which Asian competitor Singapore Airlines will begin flying in 2018 to relaunch non-stop flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York.

"You always look at all the options out there to make sure you're picking the one with the right economics" Joyce said, stacking the long-legged A350 against the Boeing 777-8X.

"And we have a bit of time on this, the 8X is not going to be available until 2022-2023, maybe a bit later. And Boeing and Airbus always keep some slots back for big brands like Qantas, so we would be able to get availability when we need it."

Discussions with Airbus, Boeing

Joyce and Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans said the airline is working with Airbus and Boeing to ensure that both of the next-gen jets are capable of flying the very long stretches required by Qantas.

"We've been in discussions with Boeing around the 777s for a while, and with Airbus on what they working on from a long-term perspective," Evans said.

"Over the next five years, as these aircraft come in, we want to be in the forefront of that and ensure the aircraft arrive with the right specifications that let us develop the right network over the next decade."

"We're really interested in aircraft that can fly a very long way, and the 777-8X and 9X are very interesting aeroplanes for us in the long term" he added.

Both the A350-900ULR and Boeing 777-8X are engineered to fly non-stop for as many as 19 hours, although carrying fewer travellers than a regular jet.

Also read: Can Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 redefine long-range flying?

That range meshes with Qantas' plans to extend its network with non-stop flights to more distant destinations.

In it for the long haul

"We've always operated some of the longest flights in the world, it's the nature of where Australia is" explains Joyce.

"Qantas has great unique IP in how we do that, our pilots and our engineers are very good at how we manage fuel and flight planning on these routes," he continues.

Joyce says this is "good expertise" to share with Airbus and Boeing "and hopefully be able to shape those products so that they work for the network that we can envisage in the future."

"This is why we bought the 787-9, because it has that long haul capability, and why we’d like to have the 777x and the A350 long haul eventually... it completely changes the game for Qantas because it allows us to have a network we could only have dreamed of in the past, and offer our customers more direct destinations."

"The opportunity to open up something like a Sydney-New York direct or a Sydney-London direct would be fantastic," Evans adds.

But there's no rushing such a crucial decision, nor an investment in buying multiple aircraft with a list price as high as US$400 million each.

"We want to make sure the aircraft is fully spec’d to where we want, and that takes a bit of time and a bit of work" Joyce says. "There's a bit of tweaking to the aircraft in order to get it there, but we've got plenty of time."

Also read: Qantas CEO promises "very luxurious" Boeing 787 configuration

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David
David

David Flynn

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.

Chris2304

Chris2304

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 386

and why we’d like to have the 777x and the A350 long haul eventually

it sounds like he wants both aircraft in the fleet for ultra long haul? Does he mean that or is it supposed to say 777X or A350?

Patricka340

Patricka340

28 May 2016

Total posts 128

QF need the 777X or the a350, I know that the 777 is much bigger but having both is like having the a320 and 737, it doesn't work in Australia. I think they should go for the 777X and the 787 for thinner routes.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"..but having both is like having the a320 and 737, it doesn't work in Australia."

I agree it'll be financially tough for QF to operate both 77X and 350.  Even in the most grand scheme conjured up by AJ, QF won't hv many ultra-long routes(i.e. well beyond 16hrs) to justify a large fleet of flying gas tanks like EK & QR can.  Splitting such small fleet(I'm guessing no more than 8-10 frames to sustain 3 daily frequencies/routes) into 2 types will deliver very poor econ of scale.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

I disagree the challenge of having both a320 and 737 is a good analogy for the challenge of having both 77x and 350.  1st of all, dual narrowbody type fleet actually worked in Australia especially for QF Group....QF has 737 while JQ has 320.  2ndly, once the fleet size of a narrowbody type hit certain minimum level(About 50-60 frames by my estimate), bargaining power toward multiple manufacturers start to neutralize any additional commonality advantage fm a single type/manufacturer.

QF's 737 fleet and JQ's 320 fleet are beyond that minimum size.

Grannular

Grannular

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 287

I think we are more likely to see Qantas convert their A380 orders to A350 than buying 777X.

Chris2304

Chris2304

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 386

Or convert them to more a320neos for Qantas?

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1372

They already have plenty of 'Qantas Group' A320 orders

Pappy

Pappy

27 Jan 2017

Total posts 5

You're spot on, Grannular. Qantas will negotiate the product change from the 8 remaining A380's into a fleet of A350's. on spec, on time and without any penalties for dumping the A380's. If they go Boeing, they have to leverage to dump the A380's without penalty. It's a smart move, commercially. I also prefer the A350 to the B787/B777X. A much better product in my humble opinion.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1117

"We've always operated some of the longest flights in the world, it's the nature of where Australia is" explains Joyce. "Qantas has great unique IP in how we do that, our pilots and our engineers are very good at how we manage fuel and flight planning on these routes," he continues.

By "IP" does Joyce mean intellectual property? I'm no aviation or legal expert but if so how exactly is that intellectual property?

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

I think Joyce was misusing "IP" - "human capital" or "intellectual capital" or simply "personnel expertise" would've been more accurate terms.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

In the wider context, IP in terms of airline op mgmt can also include proprietary /in-house developed items such as;

a) Very long range enroute weather /wind/ jetstream forecast models(Yes, @ high/cruise altitude so info/data not provided by our local weather station/channel...).  This has fuel savings and ride smoothness(even safety) implications for flight ops.....NW used to be well known for having the best dept in this area among industry peers.

b) Logarithms for determing optimal speed, altitude, climb rate/profile, etc. under diff load scenerios for long range op planning(No, I'm not talking about the onboard softwares doing these calculations precisely on the day of departure but during the forward budget/profitability estimation phase prior to mission).  Mostly fuel consumption & engine wear implications.

c) Experience+historic data for determining/predicting where to find those highly unpredictable jetstreams to ride on or avoid given a range of commercial airways/tracks to select for a mission.  Not only about fuel consumption but also about avoiding unscheduled refueling stops.

d) Procedure to relay radio comm when signals thru std channels are jammed/under interference and your airplane is 2,000km away fm any control tower/ground antenna array in the middle of the Pacific.

e) Crew training/qualification regime specific to very long range ops and unique to the carrier.  E.g. What if a pax has a heart-attack or died enroute?  Divert(Suitable medical facility @ diversion?) or continue to destination(How to determine if the pax can sustain despite a qualified captain is typically not a qualified doctor?)?  The knowledge bandwidth required fm crew are astonishingly high over such long distances. 

etc., etc.

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

Whilst the A350-900ULR looks like a very cool plane, I don't think its the right choice for QF. QF want fleet rationalization, and the A350 will only add more types to the fleet.

QF are probably just trying to make Boeing give them a better deal on the 777X, and are playing the "we have orders with Airbus right now we can swap over to the A350..." card.

Honestly, I think direct flights from PER - LHR make little sense because that still means travelling from SYD/MEL/BNE to LHR requires one stop, and PER is more out of the way than DXB. The only routes QF needs the 777-8 for are MEL/SYD - DFW (the A380 can't do the return journey without a weight restriction) and SYD - JFK (which, in a premium four-class config, is certainly possible, but the return journey would have to stop at LAX to refuel).

QF should stick with 787s and 777Xs for widebody airplanes. The 777-9 is the perfect replacement for the 747s (should have similar capacity in a four class config), and the 777-8 allows more ULH services which in turn reduces demand on the LAX routes.

Chris2304

Chris2304

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 386

So how many 787-9s do you think Qantas will order after the 8 if you think the B777-9 is the true replacement.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 390

Studio,

Perth/LHR non-stop makes sense for Perth, Adelaid and Canberra and as it cuts out a stop which is a big deal for business types, I for one would use it from Canberra.  Sydney/Melb stop then a Dubai stop is a drag.  SQ with its new flights will have the jump on QF from Canberra until they come up with a plan to drop a stop, and via Perth maybe it.

JakeDrake

JakeDrake

13 Mar 2014

Total posts 27

Have Qantas ordered the 777? I might have missed that announcement. If they haven't then whether they add the 777 or A350, either way that is a new type in the fleet so why not the A350?

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 498

I don't follow the logic. Qantas doesn't have 777's either. So how would adding A350's add more types but be bad but ordering the 777 wouldn't? 

And all all the arguments you make for the 777-9 and -8 apply equally to the various A350 models too. 

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"...QF want fleet rationalization, and the A350 will only add more types..."

Just pause, replace "A350" with "77X", and then re-read /rethink your statement again.  The same argument against 350 also works against 77X.

Along with a handful of other bluechip airlines(i.e. JL, NH, CX, BA, UA, AA and DL), QF was indeed heavily involved in the development phase of the 777 platform and directly helped to design it over 2decades ago.  However, it's also famous for being the only 1 of those airlines which has never ordered any 777 at all.

"..probably just trying to make Boeing give them a better deal.."

Or again, can also be just trying to make Airbus give them a better deal.

In a nutshell, AJ's comments re both 359ULR and 778 are nothing more than playing that classic price negotiation game of A vs B any half decent airline CEO should do anyway(May be even explicitly stated on AJ's Job Description....).  Less than a yr ago, he played the same game re 359 vs 789.

"PER - LHR make little sense because ....travelling from SYD/MEL/BNE to LHR requires one stop."

Good luck trying to sell the above idea to our fellow readers residing/based in Perth/W.A. where starvation of QF Int'l services is real and see if they care....

A popular theme among readers/posters here(And many other public forums):  QF(In fact, any large longhaul carrier) should develop more longhaul destinations...as long as all those routes are nonstop fm my own town.

Funny thing is that longhaul carriers like QF has actually been listening.  So no more mystery why very longhaul airplanes are getting smaller & smaller every decade and the orderbook for superjumbos like 380 remains so stubbornly small.

"..QF should stick 787s and 777Xs....777-9 is the perfect replacement for the 747s..777-8 allows more ULH services..."

Agree 779 is technically the exact 1-for-1 replacement for 744.  But why QF should stick with 787s and 777Xs?  How exactly will QF be worse off with a combo of 787+359ULR(for ULH)+35K(to replace 744)?  Why QF must replace 744 1-for-1(QF already voted partially not to when the 789 x8 are planned to replace 744 x5)?  By virtue of being smaller than 744/779, 35K can further help QF to decentralize its longhaul ops fm the current SYD/MEL-centric model(Of course, if U live in SYD/MEL, U couldn't care the less and may even dislike QF longhaul decentralization).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying 787+350 is a better future for QF longhaul than 787+77X.  I simply believe there's no obvious overall advantage for QF longhaul fm choosing 1 combo over the other.  I firmly believe the choice will be down to contract pricing Airbus vs Boeing.

EKaviator

EKaviator

07 Feb 2016

Total posts 23

Qantas executives are right in taking a calculative approach to such a major investment and not rushing into it. Lots of variables have to be studied and analysed. The Airbus A350-900ULR would represent a new aircraft type in Qantas Group's fleet, and quite an expensive one at that as they would be used on niche long haul and ultra long haul segments.

In fact, I see the Boeing 787 Dreamliner become the mainstay of the Group's fleet; it has already replaced Jetstar's Airbus A330s and will replace some of Qantas' Boeing 747s. Their size and range are ideal factors for long haul deployment across most of Africa, Asia, North America and South America. Qantas's own A330s can also be replaced by the 787-9 at a later stage with a higher density layout than its long haul 787s. It has an additional 15 options and another 30 purchase rights for the 787. Additionally, the domestic and international short haul A330s could also be replaced by the bigger 787-10, leaving the 787-9 solely for international long haul deployment.

The Airbus A380s are likely to stay in the fleet for some time although the eight on order are probably not going to join the current twelve. At a later stage, the Boeing 777X appears to be a good replacement vehicle, which would also give Qantas the option of high density 777-9 and ultra long haul 777-8.

Qantas could look at fleet commonality (777X and 787 operations) over introducing a new aircraft type (the A350ULR).

Jedinak K

Jedinak K

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 211

In the argument for the B777X and the A350 one has to remember that the B777-8 seating arrangement is for around 350 passengers (about the same as B77W). How many routes around the world do you think QF can economically load more than 300 passengers on a range of atleast 16000km? New York and London are about the only two I can think off. Not to mention the lengths of these flights would mean the seat setup is premium heavy = hella expensive for the customer. Especially considering the plans they have for the B789 it doesn't make much sense to invest in getting a lot of larger ultra-long range aircraft. The A350ULR has the advantage of remodifying its fuel system to be economical in the circumstances that the ultra long range routes become unviable to operate. Then again the B777X/B787 commonality comes into play so all of this basically comes down to which manufacturer can give the better deal and the future market conditions.

Chris2304

Chris2304

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 386

Boeing 777X

B777-8

2 class
Range:16,112km (8690nm
Capacity:365

3 class
Range:17,177km (9275nm)
Capacity:303

B777-9
3 class
Range:14927km (8060nm)
Capacity:349

2 class
Range:13,936km (7525nm)
Capacity:414

DaveK

DaveK

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Feb 2013

Total posts 45

Standard comments from a customer looking at keeping multiple vendors keen. If a vendor (Boeing or Airbus) know they have the business, price is naturally not as competitive as multiple vendors fighting for the business. 

'big brands like Qantas' - maybe previously. Anyone know a list of international fleet sizes for airlines, now that would be interesting. Maybe AJ really meant 'big brands like Jetstar'.

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Looks like they have a good idea of what they're getting themselves into so let's just put our faith in them and leave them to it instead of being armchair CEOs.

JulianC

JulianC

SQ

22 Feb 2016

Total posts 10

Hmmm as a regular business traveller I can't stand the thought of regularly having to do 16 hours even in J/F. I'll take a SIN/HKG stop to stretch the legs and recompress any day. But its the crew I pity most. Am yet to meet a long haul 77W driver who relishes having to do 14-16 hour sectors on a regular basis. And the new generation of routes would be what, 16+ hours?

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"...I can't stand the thought of regularly having to do 16 hours..."

Apparently, many others can....or @ least enough takers to sustain such long ops on each route daily yr-round.  5 great examples worldwide by 5 diff operators still continuing today with no end in sight(i.e. solid forward bookings yr-round):

JFK->HKG by CX =16h10m block time

DXB->LAX by EK =16h15m block time

DFW->HKG by AA =16h50m block time

DFW->SYD by QF =16h55m block time

SFO->SIN by UA =17h15m block time

Even more amazing is that all these flights include significant seatcount in Y.

Try it as a LONGHAUL "regular business traveller".  Who knows?...U may survive it after all.

"Am yet to meet a long haul 77W driver who relishes having to do 14-16 hour sectors..."

If U understand longhaul cockpit crew ops, U'll immediately know the simple reason U hv never met 1:  Because no single crew is legally allowed to be in command of the cockpit for 14-16hrs per current rules of any jurisdiction worldwide.

Once block time pass about 8-9hrs(depending on jurisdiction or specific airline internal rules), a flight will require @ least 2 sets of crew.  If block time exceeds 18hrs, it'll require 3 sets of crew.

Ever wonder why JQ network seems to be stuck in sectors below 9hrs and why is it such a big deal for SQ to fly 19hrs+ on NYC->SIN?

zoomzoom

zoomzoom

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 90

As usual too little too late from QF. Still flogging tired and out dated 747s at inflated fares. This guy put the few 787s in Jetstar. Sorry, I given up on QF, better options at better prices elsewhere...and they go to more destinations. 

flyOFTEN

flyOFTEN

24 Apr 2015

Total posts 129

if going to NYC, then nonstop is the go, but who wants to go anywhere near bloody awful Sydney. It adds 5 hours or more, when flying from Brisbane, so any advantage of flying nonstop is lost, unless you live in or near Sydney.

 

Aussie100

Aussie100

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Mar 2014

Total posts 15

Come on Qantas get the A350 in the fleet!!! I think this aircraft is awesome on so many levels.  Would like to fly it on Qf but happy to go to another airline if I have to!!!


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