The president of Qantas’ pilot union has urged the airline the urgently invest in new aircraft to add capacity to international routes.
“We’ve got 49 options (for 787s), but if you order those now, it’s probably three-and-a-half years before the jet turns up,” Captain Lucas said.
“So that means no increase in the main line fleet for the next four years, and at the same time, two A330s have just been sent to Germany to be converted into freighters. At a time when you’re short of passenger capacity, it seems a strange decision to make.”
Qantas is currently in the middle of a huge fleet renewal program that will see it completely overall most of its domestic aircraft, largely replacing its ageing Boeing 737s with next-generation Airbus A321XLRs and A220-300s.
However, some have argued the Flying Kangaroo needs new aircraft more urgently.
In May last year, the airline firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes and replace its 737s and 717s. The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
It also confirmed a separate order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets to launch its long-awaited Project Sunrise non-stop flights connecting Australia’s east coast cities to major global hubs, including London and New York.
Meanwhile, subsidiary brand Jetstar has begun welcoming the first of its new fleet of 38 A320neos.
Jetstar will take delivery of 18 A321LRs by mid-2024, and a further 20 A321XLR aircraft – an even longer-range variant – between 2024 and 2029.
In addition to aircraft for commercial flights, Qantas in February announced it would purchase an additional three A321s it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s. The three new A321P2Fs are in addition to its plan to purchase six more announced in August last year.
Qantas’ freight division already has three A321P2Fs (passenger to freighters) and plans to also convert two wide-body A330s for cargo use. It means Qantas will have a final fleet of 12 A321P2Fs.
“We’re at the start of a major update of the Qantas Group fleet that will unlock a lot of benefits,” said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.
“The aircraft we have on order will help us lower emissions, expand our network, create new jobs and ultimately serve our customers better.
“Aircraft manufacturers are seeing the same supply chain delays as a lot of other industries, and we’ve been told that some of our deliveries will be pushed back by up to six months.
“When you combine the delays with the sustained growth in travel demand that we’re seeing, we need to find other ways to lift capacity in the short and medium term.
“Wet leasing more aircraft from Alliance Airlines will provide a very rapid injection of extra capacity domestically, but with plenty of flexibility to adjust that over time depending on what is happening in the market.
“The arrival of new narrowbody [sic] aircraft into Jetstar, in particular, was creating a pipeline for existing aircraft to be used for freight and resources markets. Given the new aircraft are delayed, we’ll buy a number of second-hand A319/320s to make sure we can still meet demand from our customers.
“Jetstar Asia shrank during the pandemic, but with travel in Asia rebounding, now is the right time to put two aircraft back in.
“We’re fortunate to have the scale and the balance sheet to make these decisions, as well as a lot of flexibility in our fleet plan to make adjustments as we need to.”