While neither Qantas or its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar have confirmed (or denied) anything to date, a new rumour suggests Jetstar may swap out its fleet of Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner’s as part of a major fleet rejig. If true, Qantas could be set to take over all 11 Dreamliner’s in Jetstar’s fleet as part of its own long-haul fleet renewal, while Jetstar would replace its entire widebody fleet with the new single-aisle Airbus A321LR aircraft.
The rumour first appeared on the popular ‘Airline Secrets Exposed’ Facebook page, citing an unnamed source. They claim Jetstar is finding it tough to make a profit on international routes and needs a more fuel efficient aircraft with lower operating costs to crack the market.
The Qantas Group already has 50 A321neo’s on order and the first long-range A321LR model is set to be delivered to Jetstar in 2020. A total of 18 A321LR’s are set to be delivered to Jetstar.
The new A321LR, which has a maximum range of 7,400km, would fit Jetstar’s needs perfectly but it was originally thought the aircraft would be operated alongside the Dreamliner’s rather than as a replacement. The latest financial results from the Qantas Group revealed that despite Jetstar seeing strong demand and a rise in revenues, profits had fallen year-on-year due to higher costs including rising fuel prices.
Opting to replace the Dreamliner’s with A321’s would be seen by many as a bad move for the passenger experience and would also see a reduction in capacity. Jetstar currently offers a two-cabin configuration on its 787’s with a maximum capacity of nearly 350 passengers – nearly 100 more passengers than the maximum capacity of the A321LR.
As part of its ultra-long-haul strategy, such as the 17-hour slog between Perth and London dubbed Project Sunrise, Qantas has been eyeing up ULR versions of both the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350. The enhanced aircraft would open up the possibility of new and even longer routes such as between Sydney and Paris – getting rid of the need to stopover in destinations such as Singapore or Dubai when travelling between Europe and Australia.
According to the unnamed source, a decision has been made and Boeing is said to have won the order with an announcement set to be made in the next 2-3 months. Qantas has already ordered 14 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s, with the last of the current order due to be delivered by late 2020.
The aircraft has been a success for Qantas and both passenger load factor and performance on its Perth-London route has been exceeding expectations.
The future of the Qantas domestic fleet
To keep Airbus sweet – after Qantas not only cancelled its outstanding A380 order and (allegedly) rejected its A350 for Project Sunrise – Qantas is said to be considering increasing its A321NEO in order to progressively replace its fleet of ageing Boeing 737’s.
The source described the latest version of the 737 – the 737MAX as “old tech” and no doubt Boeing’s latest troubles with the aircraft will have helped Airbus win an order.
We’ve reached out to both Qantas and Jetstar for comment but neither airline has yet responded. That being said, these rumours do build on many things that we already know so there could be some truth to them – we should know in the next couple of months.