Qantas has trimmed the Boeing 787 order for its low-cost arm Jetstar, cancelling one of the 15 Dreamliners headed to the airline to bring the JQ 787 fleet down to 14.
However, the airline's move is said to predate the current spate of Dreamliner problems which resulted in this week's grounding of the revolutionary Boeing jet, with Qantas remaining confident that Jetstar will begin its first commercial Dreamliner flights in the later half of this year.
The decision to cancel this one Dreamliner – with a list price saving of some A$196 million – reportedly sees Qantas hedging its bets against a projected slow-down in Jetstar's international traffic.
On top of the 14 787s remaining on order for Jetstar, Qantas retains the option to buy up to 50 more Dreamliners in either the 787-8 or stretched 787-9 variant for delivery from 2016, to be shared between the Jetstar and Qantas fleets.
One less Dreamliner, five more 717s
Things are on the up for QantasLink, however, with the regional airline set to gain five Boeing 717 aircraft through a lease arrangement and buying three Bombardier Q400 aircraft outright, due to start arriving from the second half of 2013.
The 717s are likely to be seen expanding QantasLink's scheduled flights around Western Australia and northern Queensland — the Red Roo's subsidiary uses them on flights to Paraburdoo, Port Hedland, Broome, Karratha, Newman, Gladstone, Mackay and Rockhampton, plus "fly in, fly out" resources sector charters.
Qantas recently debuted its updated Boeing 717 layout with new slimline seating and ten extra seats.
The Q400s are tipped to expand regional routes in Queensland and Western Australia, plus off-peak flights in southeastern Australia.
In addition to new routes like Sydney-Gladstone and various Perth services, Qantas has been shifting several capital-to-capital routes from jets to the propeller-driven planes, including flights from Melbourne to Hobart and Canberra to Adelaide.
The turboprops are a bit of a mixed bag for business travellers: they're smaller and feel a little tighter around the shoulders for window seat passengers, and have tiny overhead compartments that fit less luggage than the bins on a 737.
But there's no middle seat on board, fewer people on board mean a quicker boarding time, and the economics of these fuel-efficient planes mean that airlines can run direct routes and more frequent flights.
Travelling on these planes? There are several extra-legroom seats and a good few to avoid at all costs. Read Australian Business Traveller's expert best seats guides to the Boeing 717 and the Bombardier Q400!
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About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.