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Qantas has flagged the Boeing 777X as a possible replacement for its Airbus A380s when it's eventually time for the superjumbos to be put out to pasture.
While the Flying Kangaroo's short-term focus for renewing its fleet remains on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which would replace older Boeing 747 jumbo jets as well as carve out new routes, the airline is also looking at life beyond the A380.
Qantas is currently flying 12 superjumbos on flagship routes to London, Los Angeles and Dallas, although it's unlikely to take up the remaining eight aircraft from its original order of 20.
Instead, those dozen double-deckers will be flown until it's time to shop around for a replacement – and the tweaked A380neo version may not be on the cards.
“I think a fleet of 12 works well for us and we will hold onto those planes through their economic life,” Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said.
“But when you then look at what point those sorts of aircraft will be coming up for replacement, new technology aeroplanes will be in place by then — 787-9s, A350s, the 777-8X and 9X,” Evans told The Australian overnight at the annual International Air Transport Association meeting in Miami, Florida.
That 'replacement' timeframe is likely to stretch well into the next decade, however – the first Qantas A380 having arrived in 2008, and by comparison the airline has notched up over 15 years flying some Boeing 747s.
The Boeing 777X is the latest addition to Boeing's best-selling 777 family, including the 777-300ER – which many in the industry believe Qantas should have originally ordered in place of the Airbus A380.
Boeing claims the 777X will be "the largest and most efficient twin-engine commercial jet in the world, with the lowest operating cost per seat of any commercial airplane."
First to fly is likely to be the Boeing 777-9X, although the 'X' will be dropped as the plane makes its journey from blueprint to blue skies, to become the 777-9.
The 777-9X is spec'd for 400 passengers in a three-class cabin layout with a peak range nudging past 15,185km (8,200 nautical miles).
By comparison, Qantas' Airbus A380 carries 484 passengers in four classes (first, business, premium economy and economy) and a range of 15,700 km (8,500 nautical miles).
Following the 777-9X will be the 777-8X, which will trim the seat count to 350 passengers but extend the jet's maximum range past 17,220km (9,300 nautical miles).
Qantas partner and Gulf powerhouse Emirates reportedly plans to upgrade its entire Boeing 777 fleet to the Boeing 777X jet from 2020.
Emirates has signed on the dotted line for 35 of the long-range Boeing 777-8X jets and a further 115 of the bigger but shorter-range 777-9X.
"The 8X is the real sweetheart, as it will fly to the other side of the planet with a good payload," Emirates CEO Tim Clark says.
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