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Qantas confirms Airbus order of A350-1000, A321XLR and A220-300

Qantas has today confirmed its Airbus order for A350-1000, A321XLR and A220-300 aircraft as it was expected. The order marks the transition from an “all-Boeing airline” to a mixed “Airbus-Boeing” airline with Airbus becoming the leader in this.

Major Airbus order

The Qantas Group has today announced several major fleet decisions that will reshape its international and domestic networks over the next decade and beyond.

As it was expected, Airbus has placed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s for its Project Sunrise. Project Sunrise is primarily aimed at launching nonstop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London, New York (and probably Paris), with other city-pairs to follow.

These flights will be over 10,000 miles long and could be over 20 hours long, making them the world’s longest flights. They would cut the travel time between these cities significantly.

The A350s are expected to join the Qantas fleet by the end of 2025 with nonstop flights to Sydney and New York expected to begin in the same timeframe.

Qantas’ A350-1000

Alan Joyce, CEO, Qantas Group, said:

Throughout our history, the aircraft we’ve flown have defined the era we’re in. The 707 introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel and the A380 brought a completely new level of comfort. The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance. As you’d expect, the cabin is being specially designed for maximum comfort in all classes for long-haul flying.

The Qantas A350-1000s will feature just 238 seats, making them one of the least dense A350-1000s. The aircraft will feature 6 all-new First Class suites, 52 lie-flat Business Class suites, 40 Premium Economy seats and 140 Economy seats.

More than 40% of the cabin will be premium seating compared with about 30% in Qantas’s Boeing B787s and Airbus A380s. The A350s will have “a wellbeing zone” in the middle for passengers to stretch.

Qantas’ A350-1000 Wellbeing Zone rendering
Qantas’ A350-1000 Wellbeing Zone rendering

Qantas will introduce a new First Class seat for A350s. The suites will feature a lounge chair, a separate bed, a privacy door, individual wardrobe for each passenger and a 32 inch inflight entertainment screen.

Qantas’ A350-1000 First Class rendering
Qantas’ A350-1000 First Class rendering

Every Business Class seat will feature direct aisle access. Premium Economy seats will have a 40-inch seat pitch while the Economy seats will have 33 inches of seat pitch, 2 more inches than the standard seat pitch found on long-haul international Economy Class seats. This makes these Economy seats one of the most spacious Economy seats in the sky.

Qantas’ A350-1000 fact sheet

The Qantas A350-1000XLRs (Extra Long Range) will have a range of 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 kilometers). This means that Qantas can fly these A350s from Sydney to anywhere in the world nonstop.

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A321XLR and A220-300 order confirmation

The airline first announced its intention to order Airbus A321XLRs and A220-300s in late 2021, but the order wasn’t finalized. Now the airline has confirmed this order as part of ‘Project Winton’ with firm orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s as its Boeing B737s and B717s are gradually retired. The first of these aircraft are expected to join the airline’s fleet in late 2023. The order also includes purchase right options for another 94 aircraft for delivery through to at least 2034.

Qantas says that passengers can expect more nonstop routes with these aircraft. Particularly on domestic and regional routes, they can expect more choice of flights at different times of day due to different size aircraft for peak and off-peak times.

Qantas’ A321XLR is 5 metres longer than the outgoing B737s and will be configured to seat 200 people (20 in Business Class and 180 in Economy Class) – a 15% increase with no reduction in space between seats. It can fly approximately 3,000 kilometres further than the B737 (at 8,700km) and opens up a wider range of direct domestic and short haul international routes (e.g. South East Asia, Pacific islands).

Qantas’ A321XLR
Qantas’ A321XLR range map from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth

The A220-300 is larger overall than the outgoing B717s and will be configured to seat 137 people (10 in Business Class and 127 in Economy Class) – a 25% increase with no reduction in space between seats. It has almost double the range at over 6,000 kilometres, meaning it can fly between any city in Australia.

Qantas’ A220-300
Qantas’ A220-300 range map from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth

Both aircraft types will be powered by Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engines (PW1100G-JM and PW1500G). The noise levels of both aircraft are up to 50% lower than the retiring aircraft. On a per seat basis, the A220-300 burns 28% less fuel per passenger than the B717. The A321XLR burns 17% less fuel per passenger compared with the B737.

Alan Joyce said:

New types of aircraft make new things possible. That’s what makes today’s announcement so significant for the national carrier and for a country like Australia where air travel is crucial. The A320s and A220s will become the backbone of our domestic fleet for the next 20 years, helping to keep this country moving. Their range and economics will make new direct routes possible, including serving regional cities better. These newer aircraft and engines will reduce emissions by at least 15 per cent if running on fossil fuels, and significantly better when run on Sustainable Aviation Fuel. This order brings us closer to our commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Project Sunrise will be carbon neutral from day one.

He added:

We have come through the other side of the pandemic a structurally different company. Our domestic market share is higher and the demand for direct international flights is even stronger than it was before COVID. The business case for Project Sunrise has an internal rate of return in the mid-teens. The Board’s decision to approve what is the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the Qantas Group. Our strategy for these aircraft will see us generate significant benefits for those who make it possible – our people, our customers and our shareholders. The phasing of this order means it can be funded within our debt range and through earnings, while still leaving room for shareholder returns in line with our financial framework.

Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International, said:

Qantas is one of the world’s iconic airlines, with a visionary spirit from its inception over 100 years ago. We are honoured by the confidence that Qantas is placing in Airbus and look forward to delivering to the Group one of the world’s most modern, efficient and sustainable fleets. This decision by Qantas underscores the position of the A350 as the reference long range widebody aircraft.

Meanwhile, Qantas recently announced new nonstop flights to Bengaluru, India and Seoul, South Korea and Jetstar also announced new nonstop flight to Seoul, South Korea.

Featured image by Qantas

Other images and renderings by Qantas

What do you think of Qantas’ Airbus order? Let me know in the comments section below.

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