Qantas eyes Boeing 737 MAX, Boeing 797 for domestic fleet

Qantas eyes Boeing 737 MAX, Boeing 797 for domestic fleet

Qantas is set to embark on a dramatic revamp of its domestic fleet, with the advanced Boeing 737 MAX and the yet-to-be-built Boeing 797 both in the frame to replace its current Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330 jets.

However, the airline has scuppered previous plans to bring the Boeing 787 onto transcontinental flights, and will now dedicate its Dreamliners exclusively to international routes.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline "we will do a competition between the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX to replace our Boeing 737 fleet probably within the next few years", although the airline's long-standing investment in the Boeing 737 makes Airbus an outsider in the pageant and Boeing's game to lose.

But congestion at Australia's major airports is also putting Boeing's all-new 'mid-market' jet – which is expected to be called the 797 – on Qantas' radar.

"We're keen on the new wide-body which Boeing is looking at," Joyce added, "which is fantastic for transcontinental flights and maybe to Asia, the economics on paper look very good."

The Boeing 797 is still in the earliest stages of development – the airline manufacturer hasn't even committed to building it – but it could get the green light as early as next year, with first commercial flights in 2025.

Read more: Boeing 797 will be a mid-sized mass-market jetliner

The twin-aisle jet would slot in between the single-aisle Boeing 737 family and the much larger 787-8 Dreamliner and "could allow us to grow in size, with Sydney airport slots filling up" Joyce predicted.

"The Airbus A330 is designed for long range flying but is heavier than we want (for domestic flights), so the economics of this could be the perfect aircraft for flying domestic and into south-east Asia."

Joyce also says the airline has moved away from plans to replace its domestic A330s with the Boeing 787-9.

"Our thinking has evolved," Joyce told Australian Business Traveller. "While the 787 as with the A330 are pretty powerful they are over-spec'd" for domestic flights, "so the economics do not work."

Joyce tipped that the forthcoming domestic Boeing 787 services between Sydney, Melbourne and Perth which will run from November until the Dreamliner moves onto Melbourne-Los Angeles services on 15 December 2017 "will be the last time you’ll se the 787 on a domestic route."

"On routes like Sydney-Melbourne we have added more and more frequencies (with the Boeing 737) which the market likes. But we have over 50% of the slots at Sydney and over time will get completely full – our forecast is that it will be full by 2023 – so having bigger aircraft which can do those routes will be key."

David Flynn is visiting Seattle as a guest of Qantas and Boeing.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Miguel


    16 Oct, 2017 09:11 am

    "having bigger aircraft which can do those routes"

    What bigger aircraft could fill this for Qantas? The 797 only exists as a paper sketch and is nowhere near confirmation, let alone completion; the 787 has been ruled out, and I don't see us going back to those days in Japan where 747s were configured short-haul for domestic routes.
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    16 Oct, 2017 09:46 am

    "What bigger aircraft could fill this for Qantas?" The 737 MAX 9 or MAX 10.
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  • Sirius


    16 Oct, 2017 09:58 am

    What about the a321neo?
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  • Christopher Campbell


    16 Oct, 2017 10:19 am

    a clean sheet design b797 would one up the 321neo.
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  • Miguel


    17 Oct, 2017 12:46 pm

    The 737 MAX 9 or MAX 10 are only marginally bigger, hardly enough to be called a capacity increase.
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  • kimshep


    16 Oct, 2017 10:44 am

    I'm not sure that I understand Alan Joyce's repeated claim that "Sydney will be full". I am sure that it hasn't escaped his attention that Sydney West will be becoming operational at the very time these frames are starting to be delivered. It is fairly obvious that QF and VA will need to offer services from both Sydney airports at that stage, so some of the capacity restrictions at Kingsford Smith should be eased.

    MEL is a greater worry in terms of capacity IMHO. Somehow, a solution to expanding the number of International terminal gates will need to be addressed and this could have ramifications on domestic operations. In MEL's Tulla case, though there is already Avalon and the mooted new South Melbourne option.

    Lastly, BrisVegas is growing at a phenomenal rate. Perhaps, that is the other spot that should be of concern? Although, once again, OOL is also available.

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  • patrickk


    16 Oct, 2017 02:23 pm

    Kimshep by the 2020s all three cites will have another runway. Brisbane in 2020, Melbourne (I think in 2025) and Sydney in 2026. AJ has said Jetstar will move to Sydney West, but there will have to be intercity 737s based there as well at around the same frequency as Canberra's intercity services, to serve Western Sydney. He will have three tight years slot-wise in Sydney
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  • GoldenClub


    16 Oct, 2017 10:47 am

    Can someone please explain why the A321 hasn't entered service in Australia yet - have flown multiple times in Europe and Vietnam and it is a great aircraft.
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  • Lala295


    16 Oct, 2017 10:59 am

    Jetstar has 8 A321s. I agree great aircraft. I have flown on SYD-OOL and SYD-MEL but im sure they can be found throughout the network.
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  • watson374


    16 Oct, 2017 03:52 pm

    JQ's A321s can reliably be found on MEL-SYD, MEL-OOL, MEL-CNS, MEL-HBA, MEL-PER, SYD-OOL, SYD-CNS. All eight aircraft are based out of MEL, but occasionally overnight in SYD.
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  • Michael

    Lifetime Bronze

    16 Oct, 2017 11:09 am

    I doubt the forthcoming 787 domestic flights "will be the last time you’ll see the 787 on a domestic route." Sure, they won't be regular (especially not to begin with) but every so often like the B744 & A333 they'll pop up somewhere during busy periods like the holidays or for re-positioning.
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  • Luke Spence


    16 Oct, 2017 11:47 am

    I think the only aircraft Qantas knows it really wants is the 778 and of course 789.
    Can see 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10 in QF colours.
    Probably will order 797 but can't see them waiting until 2025.

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  • Dante Giacomin


    16 Oct, 2017 12:23 pm

    Qantas could also opt for the lower weight Airbus A330-300 regional that has been designed for the domestic market. No lengthy retraining of pilots or engineers. Saudi Arabian airlines has both that aircraft and standard A330 in its fleet. The regional is available now too.
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  • ZT


    16 Oct, 2017 03:17 pm

    At the ISTAT Americas conference held in March the B797 talk was an aircraft(s) almost identical to the B767-200 and -300.
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  • Craig Dennington


    16 Oct, 2017 03:30 pm

    Isn't there an aircraft already suited to TransCon (and TransTasman).... is called the A321 and is available to buy right now.
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  • Stewart Smith


    16 Oct, 2017 03:55 pm

    The 787 factory options include a domestic/regional version with less galleys, less toilets, more seats, lighter weight pylons, engine management chips de-rated for lower thrust (thus lower fuel and maintenance), etc. Seems stupid to me to rule out buying 787's for domestic use, especially as Qantas already own a bunch of 787 options at very favorable prices!
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  • russh7


    16 Oct, 2017 04:19 pm

    Strange to say Q would unlikely consider A321, given Jetstar operates A320s. Airbus is more comfortable than 737 due to slightly more width. Like the Jetstar seat-back arrangement too, frees up some knee room.
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  • terrycps


    16 Oct, 2017 06:12 pm

    Let's hope the QF Dreamliner is better than the UA version. Amongst other things, the UA seat recline is probably only about 2cm — the worst I've seen in 40+ years of international flying!
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  • patrickk


    16 Oct, 2017 06:52 pm

    Smith 3104 do not assume QF has not thought of those observations of yours and still decided they need a new plane over 10 years newer in design terms than what you are suggesting.
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  • highflyer


    16 Oct, 2017 07:13 pm

    What about a long single asile jet like the 757s they use a lot in the U.S?
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  • Jazzop


    16 Oct, 2017 07:28 pm

    2025 is the earliest (I've seen) the 797 would be flying by so the timing is good to replace the domestic A332s and older 738s. Load in the 737-8/9 Max and it's a good mix. But, what about if it blows out 3 - 5 years?

    The really interesting part of the 797 is not domestic, but the regional flights it could open up. We could see more flights into Asia out of PER/ADL/BNE and dare I say it... even CBR! Maybe even Badgery's Creek into SIN...

    Good to see Qantas taking an entrepreneurial approach to its future, and flexing it's muscle to get Boeing and Airbus to bend.
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  • Flyg entusiast


    16 Oct, 2017 10:46 pm

    Please Qantas, put your loyal passengers first and choose either the A320Neo - or- the mooted 797. The cabin product on the 737NG and MAX - despite the new cabin designs - is 50 years old. The acoustics, window size & placement and general cabin ambiance no longer cut it for Qantas' premium positioning.
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  • Herbert Saravanamuttoo


    17 Oct, 2017 12:42 am

    The 797 is still a paper aeroplane and no engine manufacturer has a suitable engine. This aircraft requires a brand new engine and both Boeing and the main engine manufacturers must be convinced the market exists.
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  • Tristan


    17 Oct, 2017 01:55 am

    Qantas management should be careful about going all Boeing as in the future it will cost them. Airlines that have gone all Boeing in the past have found it difficult to get a good price on the next generation as Boeing will feel it does not need to offer much discounts as they will be favoured.

    So you have people talking about replacing the A330 with 797 and the A380 being replaced by the B778/B779. If Qantas is smart they will choose at least one of the next 3 purchases with Airbus to entice Airbus to keep bidding well into the future.

    Airlines that went all Boeing like Ryan Air tries to get Airbus to offer them a discount but because Ryan Air favours all Boeing now they get nothing but the listed price from Airbus. Hence they pay much more for their frames from Boeing these days.

    The only reason you would go all with 1 manufacturer is if your fleet was below 50 aircraft then retaining a simplified pilot training pool would be valuable. But while I don't know the exact numbers Qantas must have 100-200 aircraft maybe more.
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  • crazybenjamin


    18 Oct, 2017 08:41 am

    I predict that Qantas will choose the A320neo.
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  • Miguel


    18 Oct, 2017 09:01 am

    That's probably why Jetstar started off with an all-Airbus fleet. Gives the Qantas group as a whole some leverage - remember how the JQ 787s that replaced their A330s were the original mid-2000s orders that were destined for Qantas?
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  • skystar


    17 Oct, 2017 07:29 am

    Both the 737 Max & A320 Neo run the Leap engine so operating costs would be similar so why would it be a given that the 737 would get the nod.It would come down to who gives the best price i would think.JQ have Neos on order so it would make economic sense to have an all Airbus narrow body fleet but Boeing would pull out all stops not to lose the order and they would point out the superiority of the 737 even though its origins date back 50 years.
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  • Jason Hamilton


    19 Oct, 2017 07:38 pm

    Bring on a twin aisle MOM jet! The continued resuscitation of 737’s really needs to stop. Let’s face it - how often are we thrilled when that twin-aisle aircraft is downgraded to a skinny, sardine-can bird.
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  • skystar


    20 Oct, 2017 07:26 am

    Agree JKH on a twin isle but having experienced both the A320 & 737 i feel the Airbus a more pleasant experience if having to be in a narrow body.
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  • Traveller14


    21 Oct, 2017 09:22 pm

    Yes, while a major reason why twin aisle planes are not used on routes like BNE - MEL must be that frequencies would the have to decrease, it would be a vast improvement to not just have A320s or B737s as the choice irrespective of which airline.
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  • Chris


    26 Oct, 2017 02:45 pm

    With 99 A320/321neo's heading for the JQ fleet, wouldn't it make sense to equip QF's short-haul fleet with the same type to streamline operations, maintenance, and training? The A321 is a proven solution to the 'middle of the market' aircraft vacancy before the 797 becomes reality.

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22 Jul, 2019 06:21 pm


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