Qantas has used its annual results announcement to reveal a few more tantalising details of its planned introduction of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner into service next year.
The 787’s arrival is “about 15 months” away, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told journalists at the company’s full year results presentation on Wednesday, where he handed down a record profit for 2015/16. Joyce also confirmed that the first of eight 787-9s on firm order will be deployed on existing routes before the next-generation aircraft is used to expand the airline’s international network.
In the meantime, Qantas says it is well advanced in planning for the aircraft’s induction into service, with new “luxury suites in business class” and a “revolutionary premium economy that is streets ahead of anything else out there”, Joyce promised, without further elaborating.
Further, negotiations with airports and state governments are continuing as Qantas narrows down the list of potential new routes for the aircraft, with Joyce again confirming routes such as Perth-London and Melbourne and Brisbane to Dallas/Fort Worth, among others, are under consideration.
Tickets sales for the first 787 services will be on sale by Christmas, with confirmation of which new destinations the aircraft will serve for Qantas to be announced “shortly after that”.
This suggests the cabin configuration – what type of and how many seats will be in each of business, premium economy and economy – will be made before the end of the year.
“The Dreamliner doesn’t just extend our range – it also changes what’s possible for out customers,” Joyce said.
“We’re working with a range of specialists to create the best Dreamliner experience on the market – from a team of world-leading designers, including Marc Newson, to university sleep experts.
“We will have a lot more to say between now and the first aircraft arriving but customers should expect the best in class on every part of the Qantas Dreamliner.”
The four 787-9s due to arrive in the 2017/18 financial year, and four more in 2018/19, represent the only firm aircraft orders for the Qantas mainline fleet in the immediate future.
The airline group is due to take delivery of six aircraft in 2016/17, comprising three Fokker 100s for its fly-in/fly-out and charter operator Network Aviation (which operates under the QantasLink brand) as well as two Airbus A321 narrowbodies to be added to Jetstar’s Australian domestic fleet via operating leases and one Boeing 737-400F freighter for Qantas Freight.
Beyond the current year, the first of 99 A320neo Family aircraft powered by LEAP-1A engines are also due to start arriving from the end of calendar 2017.
The aircraft are ostensibly destined for Jetstar as older A320s are paid off and to cover growth, although the company has not ruled out operating the aircraft on Qantas mainline domestic services to replace its Boeing 737-800 fleet.
Qantas group chief financial officer Tino La Spina told analysts during the company’s investor presentation the A320neo promised a 14 per cent fuel burn advantage over the current generation A320ceo.
Looking further ahead, Qantas also holds 15 remaining options, which have firm delivery dates and a fixed price, and 30 remaining purchase rights, which have a fixed price but no firm delivery date, for the 787 family that have to be exercised between now and 2024/25.
Joyce said Qantas would look to “bed down” the first eight 787-9s into the airline’s operations ahead of any move to add more Dreamliners to the fleet.
“The 45 options and purchase rights are phenomenal for us,” Joyce said
“It will make our international business even more resilient than it is today.
“But what we have to do – we are a business – we have to demonstrate we can make money out of the eight we have and once we have done that we are comfortable in ordering more.”
Making money with the Dreamliner is something Jetstar, which has 11 787-8s in service for its long-haul international network, already seems to be doing, with an investor presentation released as part of the results announcement noting that the “new B787-8 fleet [is] contributing to [a] 10 per cent ex-fuel unit cost improvement”.
Jetstar used the 11 787s to replace 13 A330-200s, which were in turn inducted into the Qantas mainline fleet.