Qantas has waved goodbye to its final Boeing 747, ending almost half a century of history with the type. With international flights still restricted from Australia, and likely to stay that way for some time, the flying kangaroo is in no rush to replace the queens.
However, replacements will be needed eventually, as Qantas can’t survive on domestic flights forever. As such, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what will replace the Qantas 747s and how they’ll stand up to the job.
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Qantas has a total of 11 Boeing 787-9s in its fleet. It has three more firmly on order and options for others, but the airline has said it will not take any more Dreamliners for the time being. Nevertheless, the 787 has always been the plan to replace the 747.
Although the 787-9 carries far fewer passengers than the 747, in a post-COVID world, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The additional economy of the modern Dreamliner will make it more efficient to operate, and the extra range of the Dreamliner (8,313 nm versus 7,236 nm for the 747) will give Qantas more flexibility on routes.
The Dreamliner certainly isn’t as glamorous or as iconic as the Queen, but it’s a good, modern aircraft that will be able to cover the 747s routes with ease.
What about the A350?
Qantas picked the A350 for its future long-haul needs back in December. Not only would these flagship aircraft take the lead on Qantas’ key routes, but they would also become the landmark transport to take on the hotly anticipated ‘Project Sunrise’ nonstop Sydney-London flights.
However, when the order was placed, Qantas had no idea what was just around the corner. The impact of COVID has shattered Qantas’ hope of launching the ultra-long-haul flights anytime soon and delayed the official confirmation of the A350-1000 order. The airline had been expected to order 12 A350-1000s in March and could have ordered more later in the year, but that’s all been put on ice, given the current situation.
Right now, the hope of an A350 order this year is somewhere between slim and none. Although CEO Joyce spoke positively of Project Sunrise last month, the airline has bigger fish to fry right now.
Qantas has confirmed it will ground 100 of its planes for at least 12 months, in a bid to make savings of more than $10 billion to weather the COVID crisis. The A380s will be shelved potentially until 2023, and new deliveries deferred for the foreseeable.
For now, the only replacements for the 747s are the Dreamliners, potentially in combination with Qantas’ fleet of A330s. The A350 may become a part of the fleet in the future, but not for some time.