Qantas has launched Project Winton to replace all its Boeing 737s and 717s with a decision before the end of the year.
Speaking from the International Air Transport Association AGM in Boston Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said determining the jets that would serve Qantas Domestic for the next two decades was a key milestone for the Group.
Qantas has 75 174-seat 737-800s and 20 100-125 seat 717s and the shortlisted replacement aircraft are the Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A320neo, and the higher capacity end and the Airbus A220 and Embraer E-195 E2 with smaller capacity.
“We’re calling this Project Winton, after the birthplace of Qantas in outback Queensland, because this is a foundational decision for the future of our domestic operations.
“All of the next-generation aircraft we’re considering have the potential to drive big improvements in the trip cost and overall efficiency, and they’re great platforms for delivering a better premium service to our customers.
“Not only will these aircraft deliver a step-change in reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to around 15 percent, but we’re also talking to each of the manufacturers about how we can accelerate the development and use of sustainable aviation fuels for our domestic flying.
“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 Mr. Joyce.
He added that because COVID has had a devastating impact on the aviation industry many airlines are not able to place orders for new aircraft but Qantas is in a strong position to secure the best possible deal at very good prices.
The Winton Project will see more than 100 new aircraft enter the national carrier’s domestic fleet by 2034 with deliveries starting from the end of 2023 but the Qantas Group would retain significant flexibility to make adjustments depending on market conditions.
Qantas said that the tender process includes a detailed evaluation of the aircraft against four key criteria: safety, reliability and performance, sustainability and emissions reduction, and commercial terms.
“The aircraft we’re considering have been in service for several years, which gives us the confidence that they’ve gone through rigorous troubleshooting by the time they enter our fleet. They’re new, but they are known quantities.
However, the mix of the replacement will likely be a greater number of regional aircraft as the airline has found greater support for non-stop flights suggests Mr. Joyce.
“Our approach is always to have the right aircraft on the right route, which really means balancing the size of the aircraft with the demand in each market.
“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 centers and more choice of flights throughout the day,” said Mr. Joyce.
Mr. Joyce said that the final decisions on preferred suppliers of aircraft and engines are expected to be made by the end of 2021 followed by firm orders by mid-2022.
Mr. Joyce also announced that its Project Sunrise for ultra-long-range nonstop flights was back on the runway with services to start in 2024/2025.
Qantas had announced the selection of the Airbus A350-1000 for the non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast cities to London and Sydney to New York in December 2019 but no order was placed due to the pandemic.
Qantas and Airbus are expected to sign off on an order for 12 aircraft by early next year.