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Qantas is set to embark on a dramatic revamp of its domestic fleet, with the advanced Boeing 737 MAX and the yet-to-be-built Boeing 797 both in the frame to replace its current Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330 jets.
However, the airline has scuppered previous plans to bring the Boeing 787 onto transcontinental flights, and will now dedicate its Dreamliners exclusively to international routes.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline "we will do a competition between the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX to replace our Boeing 737 fleet probably within the next few years", although the airline's long-standing investment in the Boeing 737 makes Airbus an outsider in the pageant and Boeing's game to lose.
But congestion at Australia's major airports is also putting Boeing's all-new 'mid-market' jet – which is expected to be called the 797 – on Qantas' radar.
"We're keen on the new wide-body which Boeing is looking at," Joyce added, "which is fantastic for transcontinental flights and maybe to Asia, the economics on paper look very good."
The Boeing 797 is still in the earliest stages of development – the airline manufacturer hasn't even committed to building it – but it could get the green light as early as next year, with first commercial flights in 2025.
The twin-aisle jet would slot in between the single-aisle Boeing 737 family and the much larger 787-8 Dreamliner and "could allow us to grow in size, with Sydney airport slots filling up" Joyce predicted.
"The Airbus A330 is designed for long range flying but is heavier than we want (for domestic flights), so the economics of this could be the perfect aircraft for flying domestic and into south-east Asia."
Joyce also says the airline has moved away from plans to replace its domestic A330s with the Boeing 787-9.
"Our thinking has evolved," Joyce told Australian Business Traveller. "While the 787 as with the A330 are pretty powerful they are over-spec'd" for domestic flights, "so the economics do not work."
Joyce tipped that the forthcoming domestic Boeing 787 services between Sydney, Melbourne and Perth which will run from November until the Dreamliner moves onto Melbourne-Los Angeles services on 15 December 2017 "will be the last time you’ll se the 787 on a domestic route."
"On routes like Sydney-Melbourne we have added more and more frequencies (with the Boeing 737) which the market likes. But we have over 50% of the slots at Sydney and over time will get completely full – our forecast is that it will be full by 2023 – so having bigger aircraft which can do those routes will be key."
David Flynn is visiting Seattle as a guest of Qantas and Boeing.