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New QF horizons

There was reportedly spontaneous applause in Qantas offices around the country and the world last month when CEO Alan Joyce confirmed firm plans for the carrier to finally take delivery of new Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

New QF horizons

There was reportedly spontaneous applause in Qantas offices around the country and the world last month when CEO Alan Joyce confirmed firm plans for the carrier to finally take delivery of new Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Announced as part of the airline’s blockbuster profit turnaround, the next generation planes “overcome the tyranny of distance,” with a base plan for eight of the 787s to replace five of the carrier’s older 747-400 workhorses, conservatively maintaining existing capacity but offering new options for the airline.

Joyce said the Dreamliners would provide longer-term flexibility to increase frequencies on existing routes, or add new services to longer, thinner routes. The ultra-long range of the aircraft “presents a future opportunity for growth into markets presently unserved directly from Australia,” he added.

The order has been a very long time coming. Almost exactly ten years ago Qantas announced its first big deal for Dreamliners, which at the time would have made it the largest customer in the world for the aircraft type. The massive announcement by former CEO Geoff Dixon included 45 firm orders, 20 options and 50 purchase rights.

However with the delivery of the 787 repeatedly delayed due to technical issues at Boeing and the subsequent global financial crisis in 2008, the plans evolved, eventually seeing the order significantly reduced to incorporate fewer 787-8s, directed to Jetstar’s long-haul operations – and none at all for Qantas International mainline which was incurring deep losses.

This year’s profit turnaround has changed all that, and QF mainline will now finally be able to spread its wings. An intriguing graph included as part of the presentation (pictured) provided a titillating glimpse into what might be possible using the new aircraft. Detailing the direct range of the 787-9 from the Australian east coast, non-stop flights will be possible to destinations such as Santiago, Cape Town, Addis Ababa or Chicago. Moscow is just out of range from Sydney, but would be accessible non-stop from Perth.

Eight 787-9s could be just the start, with Qantas still having 15 remaining options and 30 “purchase rights” for the aircraft type which offers a 20% lower fuel consumption than a 747, significantly lower maintenance costs and a range of passenger comfort enhancements.

The new planes will arrive from late 2017, with the timing also helping the Qantas bottom line by avoiding expensive Boeing 747 maintenance checks. The business case for the acquisition was also supported by a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement accepted by QF’s long-haul pilots which delivered a 30% productivity improvement.

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