Qantas is ordering a staggering 110 new Airbus A320s -- the largest single aircraft order in Australian aviation history -- to enable it to rapidly grow its Asian travel strategy.
CEO Alan Joyce said this morning that in addition to the 110 firm orders, it had reserved options to buy another 194 of the planes.
The model ordered by Qantas is the A320 NEO (New Engine Option), which Joyce says is 8% cheaper to buy than current-model A320s, features 15% lower fuel burn and has 20% lower engine maintainence costs.
Because the fuel consumption is lower, the planes can fly up to 950km further, too.
The A320 fits 150 passengers in a typical two-class arrangement, or up to 180 with high-density seating plan. It is the workhorse of the Jetstar fleet, typically with 177 seats in a 3-3 configuration, and is used for interstate and short-haul international flights.
The large number of smaller planes will give Qantas the ability to offer more frequent flights without having to work so hard to fill up its largest international planes on routes where the demand doesn't match the size of the aircraft.
Delaying the A380
To free up cash for the massive order, the airline has elected to delay the delivery of six of its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbos by five to six years.
The airline will have 12 A380s in service by end of this year, focused on the Australia to Los Angeles and London via Singapore routes.
Better planes to New Zealand
Across the Tasman, Qantas confirmed it will be replacing its antique JetConnect planes with new Boeing 737-800s, including in-seat inflight entertainment, rather than the embarrassingly bad offering of portable DVD players handed out to passengers on some flights at present.
As Australian Business Traveller has previously reported, Qantas is also refitting its ageing Boeing 747s with the same interior amenities and seating as its A380s.
"Staff at Avalon are hard at work refitting Boeing 747s with A380 seats and interiors including the new Panasonic inflight entertainment," Joyce says, referring to the high-resolution touchscreens currently only seen on the A380s.
The first upgraded 747 will be ready and flying within three months.
By October next year, Qantas expects 21 of its "largest aircraft" will be fitted with the same interiors, including fully flat Skybeds.
The 23rd and final 747 will be flying with A380 interiors by June 2014 -- completing the refurbishment of the whole 747 fleet.
A date with the 787 Dreamliner
Alan Joyce says Boeing is confident that it will be able to deliver Qantas' first long-delayed 787 in the second half of next year.
However, he says, in light of the most recent Boeing delays, Qantas expects to actually take delivery of the 787 in January or Feburary of 2013.