Qantas has 20 Boeing 717s. (Rob Finlayson)
Cobham Aviation Services will fly Boeing 717 aircraft on behalf of QantasLink for a further 10 years under a new contract extension.
The new deal, announced on Monday, has Cobham continuing to supply pilots and cabin crew for QantasLink’s fleet of 20 717s, as well as line maintenance engineering services in some locations.
QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said Cobham was an “expert operator” of the 717 in Australia.
“I’m pleased they will continue to provide safe operations and exceptional service to our customers in line with Qantas standards,” Gissing said in a statement.
“Cobham has also shown a commitment to deliver further efficiencies that align with the Qantas Group’s Transformation program.”
In addition to serving regional routes mainly in Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and to Canberra, Qantas has in recent years utilised the 717 fleet on other capital city services, such as Hobart to Melbourne and Sydney, and Adelaide to Sydney.
Cobham has flown 717s for QantasLink since 2005 and the company’s chief executive Peter Nottage said he was delighted to be able to extend the relationship with the regional wing of Qantas for a further 10 years.
“The new contract demands the same ongoing determined focus on the highest level of safety and reliability for our operations while containing further continuous improvement targets around the efficiency of everything we do,” Nottage said.
The Qantas-Cobham relationship stretches back 25 years, given Cobham previously flew BAe-146 aircraft for QantasLink.
Cobham previously also performed heavy maintenance work on QantasLink’s 717s at its Adelaide base. However, Qantas took back that work in 2015 when it established a 717 heavy maintenance base in Canberra.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said recently the airline was looking to buy the 717s it currently had on lease as those leases expired and was on the lookout for further acquisitions in what was a scarce market.
“We’ve been out there hunting for more,” Joyce told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Dublin in early June.
“They are a great aircraft. If there was a possibility of getting a few more of them, we’d be keen on them.
And while Joyce said he was open to the possibility of Embraer E-jets or Bombardier CSeries being the answer to the eventual replacement for the 717 or Fokker 100, that call won’t have to be made for a while.
“Obviously we are keeping an eye on the Embraers, the CSeries. They have the potential to be longer-term replacements but we are a long way away before we have to replace the 717s and the F100s,” Joyce said.
“The F100s have very low utilisation. That’s going to continue, that’s why we bought them. The capital costs are low. We believe that they have a good life ahead of them. We are actually buying 717s. We obviously believe they have a long life as well.”
(Read more about the Boeing 717 and Bombardier’s CSeries in the July edition of Australian Aviation magazine, on sale now.)