EXCLUSIVE | Qantas will fly its regional Boeing 717 jets between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on weekends starting from early August 2017, in replacing the larger Boeing 737-800 aircraft on selected flights.
The move is intended to reduce operating costs and 'right-size' the weekend fleet on these 'triangle' routes, which see much lower passenger numbers outside of peak hours across Saturday and Sunday compared to weekdays.
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that "about 20 weekend flights in non-peak times" would progressively switch to the Boeing 717s of regional arm QantasLink starting Saturday August 5.
"Our strategy is to make sure we have the right aircraft on the right route. It’s a small change that impacts about 1% of our total weekend flying between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but it shows our ability to adjust to meet the market and still maintain the same number of services."
Australian Business Traveller understands that eight flights or 'sectors' will be scheduled from August 5 with the remaining 12 sectors downgraded to the Boeing 717 from mid-August.
The nimble Boeing 717 carries just 110 passengers – including 12 in business class – compared to 174 on the Boeing 737s...
... with the airline's Q Streaming WiFi system serving up inflight music and video content.
The QantasLink fleet also includes some Boeing 717s in an all-economy layout of 125 seats, but these will remain on regional routes where there's less demand for business class.
There'll be no impact on availability of business class for those downsized triangle flights, as both the Boeing 717 and Boeing 737 each have 12 seats at the pointy end – although while legroom remains the same, the Boeing 717 seats are slightly narrower at 20 inches compared to 22 inches.
Economy class flyers may even prefer the smaller Boeing 717, where the cheap seats are wider (18 inches) and have more legroom due to greater pitch (31 inches) compared to the 17.2 inch width and 30 inch pitch of the Boeing 737 – as well as a 2-3 seating layout compared to the larger Boeing 737's 3-3 configuration.