SYDNEY: Qantas Airways expects to order more than 100 narrowbody and regional planes next year as well as widebodies capable of the world's longest commercial flights from Sydney to London, its chief executive said.
Qantas plans to select the preferred supplier to replace its ageing fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800s and 20 717s in December, CEO Alan Joyce said in a virtual press briefing on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting in Boston.
"It is only once in a generation you go through a major fleet renewal like this," he told reporters. "This is a really strategic decision for our future."
The orders would be worth billions of dollars and provide a boost to aircraft manufacturers that cut production during the pandemic at a time when many airlines, including Qantas, postponed deliveries due to lower demand.
Qantas will place a firm order for the planes by mid-2022, with deliveries expected from late 2023 to 2034, Joyce added.
The options under consideration include the Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus SE A320neo family, the A220 and Embraer SA's E-Jet E2 family, Qantas said, confirming an earlier Reuters report.
The airline said the new planes would reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions by around 15 per cent and it would also work with the manufacturers on accelerating the use of sustainable aviation fuel in a bid to meet a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Qantas is also looking to add to its long-haul fleet as it begins to recover from the pandemic. The airline last year postponed plans to order up to 12 Airbus A350 jets capable of Sydney-London and Sydney-New York flights, but Joyce said the widebody order is back on the agenda.
"We're hoping in early 2022 we can make a call on it," he said. "So the decision could happen at the same time (as the domestic fleet) or maybe even slightly ahead,"
The ultra-long haul flights could start in 2024 or 2025, he added.
Qantas also has an existing order for 109 A320neo family jets, which it said will mainly be used to replace budget arm Jetstar's fleet of A320 aircraft.
The first plane from that order is due to be delivered in the second half of 2022, with the remainder to be received by the end of the decade, it said in a statement.