Australian flag carrier Qantas is about to finalize its formal tender process for the long-term renewal of its domestic narrow-body fleet.
The program, which is called Project Winton, after the birthplace of Qantas in outback Queensland, plans to replace the carrier’s current ageing domestic fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800s and 20 Boeing 717s by December 2021.
The aircraft being considered to replace the current fleet are the Boeing 737 MAX family and Airbus A320neo family, and for smaller aircraft, the Embraer E-Jet E2 family and the Airbus A220.
The final decision over the carrier’s preferred aircraft manufacturer is expected to be made by the end of 2021, firm orders by mid-2022, and deliveries to start by the end of 2023.
“This is a long-term renewal plan with deliveries and payments spread over 10 years, starting in FY23, but the equally long lead time means we need to make these decisions soon,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce in a statement at the IATA Annual Meeting in Boston
“COVID has had a devastating impact on the aviation industry and there aren’t many airlines around the world in a position to place orders for new aircraft. We still have our own repair work to do, but we know travel demand will rebound quickly and right now we’re in a strong position to secure the best possible deal at very good prices.”
Joyce said that Qantas will require a combination of larger and smaller aircraft types as the airline’s network consists of flying between large capital cities as well to smaller cities and regional centres.
“The mix of aircraft we’re considering means we’ll have more operational flexibility, which for customers translates into more direct routes to smaller regional centres and more choice of flights throughout the day.”
Currently, Qantas has an existing order for 109 Airbus A320/A321 aircraft, which will predominantly be used to renew Jetstar’s existing fleet of A320 aircraft. The first neo is due to be delivered in the second half of year 2022 with deliveries through to the end of the decade.