When will Qantas get its first Boeing 787 Dreamliners?

When will Qantas get its first Boeing 787 Dreamliners?

Read: Qantas to buy Boeing 787, first flights from 2017

With Qantas now flying straight and level towards a return to profitability, the airline’s plan to buy the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is edging back into the spotlight.

The fuel-efficient aircraft has been part of Qantas’ roadmap since December 2005, when then-CEO Geoff Dixon inked a deal for as many as 115 of the next-gen jets to be delivered from 2008.

Of course, the much-delayed Dreamliner didn’t make its commercial debut until October 2011, while Qantas’ own commitment has been pared back and pushed back over the many years since.

In 2012 the airline cancelled 35 firm orders to rein in costs, although 50 options and purchase rights were brought forward “by almost two years, available for delivery from 2016" the airline said at the time.

In August 2014 the first five options from that batch were delayed until 2017 to help bring the books back into balance.

Taking up those options has always been contingent on a turnaround for Qantas’ ailing international arm, which recorded a $497 million loss over the 2013-2014 financial year.

But Qantas is now gliding towards a $300-350 million profit for the six months from July to December 2014, with CEO Alan Joyce reporting that all divisions of the airline – including its beleaguered international arm – are tracking back into the black.

Red-tailed Dreamliners for 2017?

So has the airline ready to restart the clock on its Boeing 787 order? Not quite yet, says Joyce, although he’s still bullish on the Dreamliner.

“I want to order it [and] I think everybody at Qantas wants to have them”, Joyce said in December during a preview of the airline’s new Business Suite business class seating – the same seating which would likely find its way into any red-tailed Boeing 787-9s.

Read: Qantas sets its sights on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner 

“But we have to make sure that the business has the balance sheet straight, has the [right] cost base – the transformation [program] is key - and has the appropriate business case to get them” Joyce added.

The first priority is therefore to pay down outstanding debt – with a target of $1 billion in the 2015 financial year – and get the balance sheet on a solid footing.

That leaves plenty of time to turn a Boeing 787 option into an order, assuming the airline chooses to stick to the 2017 timeframe.

However, Joyce says that Qantas’ relationship with Boeing allows plenty of  flexibility when it comes to taking up the options as well as when the first Dreamliner deliveries would take place.

“We’ve got the flexibility of moving them out, so we haven’t lost any of the options, and we talk to Boeing if we say we need more time. So there is not going to be a firm date, that date is always going to be variable.”

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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.
 

53 comments

  • hutch

    hutch

    13 Jan, 2015 09:56 am

    Sadly this firmly remains a case of 'if' not 'when'.

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  • Yohy

    Yohy

    13 Jan, 2015 10:07 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_idioms_of_improbability

    QF will have 787s when RedQ flies...

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    13 Jan, 2015 10:49 am

    Qantas is going to have to exercise these options sooner rather than later. It's painfully obvious that Qantas is not going to have enough aircraft left in its fleet to serve its current network. For example, the infamous VH-OJA Boeing 747-400 flew it's "last flight" some time ago. However, this aircraft is still heading off to Tokyo and Johannesburg on a regular basis. Qantas needs the 787, it's a fuel efficient, two engined aircraft that has massive savings on a seat per km basis when compared to four engined 747's and A380's.

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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    13 Jan, 2015 12:41 pm

    I suspect they will also get a couple of longer range HGW A380s fo Dallas and free up other A380s for  slot constrained places like Haneda and HK. I think the A380 versus 787 costs per seat km may not be as far apart as you suggest.

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    13 Jan, 2015 12:57 pm

    However, the 787 suits a lot more ports than the A380 does, particularly in Asia.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    13 Jan, 2015 11:29 pm

    Absolutely. This is why it's important to get these things, as they have the legs to get to the United States nonstop ex-Australia. This would allow the 744s on LAX to be pulled (flights 15/16, 17/18 and 95/96). Obviously this requires increasing frequency, but it's not as bad an idea as it seems.

    I haven't seen the CASM figures for the revamped and neo A330s, but those might also be very good for Asian runs.

    With regard to the Asian runs, I believe this is where efficient mid-sized twins are most important. It would crucially allow retirement of the last 744s from the HKG and NRT runs. With both HKG and NRT/HND, moving from a daily 744 to double-daily 787s is probably ideal. It should also be cost-efficient enough to start opening new ports such as PEK as well as growing PVG.

    Obviously this growth will need to be supported by connecting traffic, which requires partners and/or Jetstar.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    13 Jan, 2015 08:56 pm

    There are 2 A380's sitting at TLS which were meant for Skymark. Could QF make a deal with Airbus for those?

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    17 Jan, 2015 02:18 am

    Unlikely.  The costs per seat are similar, but only if you can fill them.  That's been the challenge with the A380 so far.  Also, there are limitations on the use of A380s at Haneda, at least during daytime hours.  As for Hong Kong, it's largely a business destination and those travellers want frequency.  That's why Cathay sends multiple A330s daily to Australia rather than a smaller number of 777s.

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    17 Jan, 2015 02:19 am

    Unlikely.  The costs per seat are similar, but only if you can fill them.  That's been the challenge with the A380 so far.  Also, there are limitations on the use of A380s at Haneda, at least during daytime hours.  As for Hong Kong, it's largely a business destination and those travellers want frequency.  That's why Cathay sends multiple A330s daily to Australia rather than a smaller number of 777s.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    13 Jan, 2015 04:58 pm

    And half the capacity. 787's are NOT 747 or A380 replacements.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    13 Jan, 2015 05:08 pm

    Not to significantly less capacity and ETOPs issues, especially to JNB.

    Besides 787's are not 747 or A380 replacements. Indeed the 789 is about the same size capacity wise as the A330-300, just longer legs of course.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    13 Jan, 2015 08:52 pm

    One issue is that CASA refuses to allow higher then ETOPS 180 for Australian aircraft, which means they need to keep 4 engine aircraft on JNB, SCL and any other southern Africa/South America ports they might return to.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    14 Jan, 2015 01:59 pm

    They can run A380s on JNB and SCL, just with lower frequency. Both are monopoly routes. If JNB was 5x weekly and SCL 3x weekly (down from daily and 4x weekly respectively) then the A380s would be flying approximately the same number of seats.

    (That is, Economy would remain roughly the same, Premium Economy would go down signficantly, Business down slightly but there would now be some First.)

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  • abudhabi1

    abudhabi1

    13 Jan, 2015 11:13 am

    Let's hope so.We need something to replace the A300'S AND 767's domestically many of us remembered over the years in Australia plus something for when a 747's capacity is too much.

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    13 Jan, 2015 11:36 am

    You mean the A330's? The A300's were introduced in 1982 by TAA!

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  • hutch

    hutch

    13 Jan, 2015 11:55 am

    I'm hoping that there are no A300's still flying in Australia. And the 767's are well replaced by the A330 and 737

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  • abudhabi1

    abudhabi1

    13 Jan, 2015 02:13 pm

    My Mistake I am thinking in terms of both Domestic and International Capacity.

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  • Ozebear

    Ozebear

    13 Jan, 2015 12:39 pm

    'Beleaguered' is so 2014.. Maybe corporate can give you another description for 2015

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  • Fonga

    Fonga

    13 Jan, 2015 02:09 pm

    Sooner rather than later please Alan. The 787 will serve many of the ports/sectors that Qantas is wanting to fly but doesn't have the right plane to do so. Vancouver is an obvious candidate, but also Perth/Adelaide/Brisbane to Dubai, Perth to Johannesburg, Brisbane to NYC, and other legs that aren't daily but could be so with a smaller more efficient plane.

    I noted he said the other day that the 747s still had plenty of life left in them. I took that to mean at least another 5-10 years. Would the 787s replace the 747s or slot in between them and the A330-300s? It's a bit hard to read the strategy.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    13 Jan, 2015 11:43 pm

    Basically, they're A330-300s that have the legs of 744ERs. So they can do everything from SYD-SIN to SYD-DFW.

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    13 Jan, 2015 02:38 pm

    Will happen when Alan Joyce and his board step down.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 05:41 pm

    Why do they need to? They were put in place by the shareholders to do a job and by the looks of it they have done what they were asked to do. Many may well not agree, but the results of the turnaround are there for all to see. And the turn around isn't because of the oil price drop, by all accounts that is only about 20% or so of the turnaround

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    13 Jan, 2015 03:34 pm

    Gunna have them one day, negative profit one year, positive profit the next. I will beleive it when I see it.

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  • Merc25

    Merc25

    13 Jan, 2015 04:20 pm

    Come on Qantas give the 787 to the passengers  that pay for Quality not your budget carrier  jetstar!

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    13 Jan, 2015 04:30 pm

    Qantas needs to scrap Jetstar, other industries have tried the same thing and failed. They need to build the one strong brand. 

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  • AJW

    AJW

    13 Jan, 2015 11:17 pm

    But Qantas have succeeded (out of Australia at least) and kept their main brand strong. So makes no sense to scrap it.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    14 Jan, 2015 08:04 am

    I would debate they have succeeded internationally when I travel overseas I don’t go directly to the Qantas website when looking for a flight. Jetstar is like a demerged part of Qantas (locally) running parallel to the parent company. As a Qantas Platinum member or even if I was a Qantas Silver member Jetstar is a let down when Qantas sticks you on a Jetstar flight. That reminds me of the British Airways passenger, 84 year old lady who brought an around the world first class ticket, Qantas stuck her in business class and then transferred her later to a Jetstar flight and she wasn’t even given a good seat let alone she had to pay for a drink of water.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 11:53 am

    Never said they succeded internationally. Though their international flights out of Australia would seem to be doing ok, flying routes that in the past Qantas may not have been able to make profitable, so not really in competition. In fact I can only really think of Honolulu and maybe some runs to NZ as the only international routes where Qantas and Jetstar compete with each other.

     

    Within Australia they may fly some common routes but after different segments of the market. And you comment about being put on Jetstar, what would the alternative have been, a delay for the next Qantas flight? 

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    14 Jan, 2015 03:12 pm

    Good question about why someone was put on a Jetstar flight, totally unsure or can't remember. I know I hate it when I use points and it turns out to be Jetstar only, that's why Virgin is a such better option locally. Also Virgin staff let myself take 6 adults into the Virgin Lounge on Sunday. Qantas staff have a hissy fit when you try to take 1 extra person in.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    14 Jan, 2015 03:12 pm

    Good question about why someone was put on a Jetstar flight, totally unsure or can't remember. I know I hate it when I use points and it turns out to be Jetstar only, that's why Virgin is a such better option locally. Also Virgin staff let myself take 6 adults into the Virgin Lounge on Sunday. Qantas staff have a hissy fit when you try to take 1 extra person in.

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  • Texrex79

    Texrex79

    16 Jan, 2015 11:00 pm

    I've taken up to 8 people into QC at once and often 4 people at a time. Never once been knocked back. 

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  • eminere

    eminere

    13 Jan, 2015 04:34 pm

    I wouldn't hold my breath.

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    14 Jan, 2015 04:25 am

    Hopefully but who knows boeing is proably itching to sell these to another carrier as a firm order

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  • Richard Foreman

    ptcruiser

    14 Jan, 2015 10:27 am

    I'm wondering whether the B787 will have missed the boat with Qantas ? I know that Qantas has got an unbeatable deal with them if they do decide to order, but is that ideal in the long run ? I thought the 787 was a very long range aircraft for long thin routes therefore not really suitable or used to it's potential on the Asian routes, where the new A330neo's would be best suited. It's not big enough at all to be a B747 replacement, and too big for 2 x daily, where a new Airbus A350 (900 or 1000) would be ideal for example. Also, with all the complaints that are coming in from British Airways for example on the lack of comfort and space in their B787's in economy, I'm not actually looking forward to spending 14 hrs on one anyway ! 

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 11:46 am

    Richard one good thing about the 787 is it can do short runs as effectivly as ultra long range. Indeed when Qantas was first planning to get 787's the only time they were mentioned was in realtion to domestic flying replacing the 767's. Qantas never annouced any plans to fly them on international routes. If you recall the only annouced plan was 788's to JQ, then replaced by 789's with the 788's going to Qantas to replace 763's.

    The problem with the 787 and long range flights however is its size. From memory don't think any airline has gone for anything more than two class at present. (not counting United and their economy plus, it is hardly a true 3rd class type, just economy with some extra leg room). Now no doubt if Qantas started flying 788/9 long haul people would want at a minimum business, Qantas premium economy and economy. On a 788/9 basically not much space to put them all. Why do you reckon Emirates is pusing the 787-10?

    For Asian runs the 788 or 789 would be good, but as you mention the A330neo's now give the 787 a run for their money and have the advantage of comminality with Qantas' existing A330 fleet. Long range, as you say the A350 may be a much better choice for Qantas giving far greater floor space compared to the 787 which would allow a genuine 3 class layout with sufficent pax to make it worth while. And of course keeps cockpit cominality with the A330's.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    14 Jan, 2015 02:53 pm

    The new JL 788 config has 3 classes

    E01 (old) 42J/144Y

    E11 (new, "SS8") 38J/35W/88Y

     

    The main issue with Y on many in service 787s is that Boeing designed it for 8 across. Many airlines have put in 9 across.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 06:34 pm

    Interesting to know, so one airline. But look at the seat count. 3 class has 158 passengers, compare that say to a 4 class Qantas A380 with 484 seats or 3 class 744 with 364 passengers. Would need a good seat burn to pay for the extra crew costs, landing and handling costs etc.

    So if Qantas did as some suggest and changed A380's or 744''s for a 3 class 788 using JAL's config you would need 3 to replace an A380 and 2.3 to replace a 744. Slightly less of course if it was a 789, maybe 2.5 for an A380 and 2 for a 744.

    On routes where Qantas uses their 744's and A380's capacity is more important than frequency. Indeed some routes only have a window of around 4-6 hours for flights to leave to arrive outside curfew hours. So makes no sense to change to a small aircraft.

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  • schlaffa

    schlaffa

    14 Jan, 2015 11:40 pm

    I would not underestimate the benefit of frequency. How many QF pax are connecting at LAX? How many more itineraries with AA codeshares would be improved with a higher frequency? What about flying into PHX and connecting with US flights? More direct destinations in North America?

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  • AJW

    AJW

    15 Jan, 2015 12:41 am

     LAX is one of those places where the window is limited, hence why when there are multiple flights SYD-LAX on the same day they are reasonably close together (as above said a window of 4-6 hours), same too with MEL-LAX.

     

     So frequency becomes less important to LAX in particular, not to mention the extra fixed costs of flying multiple aircrfat on the same route in a conga line.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    15 Jan, 2015 05:02 pm

    LAX doesn't have a curfew, neither does MEL. Any "window" would be related to curfew limited SYD (and BNE?).

    With roughly 14 hour flights, the SYD curfew would just prevent departures from LAX between 1400 and 2100 (+/- daylight saving). The only thing stopping a return of day time LAX-SYD flights (eg, LAX depart  around 1000) is the limited connections available at SYD between 2000 and 2300.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    16 Jan, 2015 12:35 am

    Yes, but there's also no point arriving at 3am.

    The problem is essentially that there isn't much sense in arriving in Australia at any time besides the morning peak, for both connecting traffic as well as local traffic. The advantage of the westbound flights is that while they arrive early, they also go 'back' in terms of hours so if passengers can sleep, they can sleep well and arrive rested.

    For around half the year, it's difficult to time a day flight back to SYD/MEL, simply because to get any meaningful connections the flight needs to land around 18:30, which isn't possible without a ridiculously early departure ex-LAX.

    Compounding this, the early departure ex-LAX and late arrival into SYD mean that connections are sparse at both ends. This stands in contrast to the current setup, which has huge connection options at both ends.

    It would be nice to see a day flight return anyway, though, for O&D traffic. On a 744, no way. On a 789? Might work.

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  • schlaffa

    schlaffa

    16 Jan, 2015 01:04 am

    Good point about the O&D traffic. This is what the 787 was designed for. Agreed that the current bank is the best single slot to maximise connections at both ends but there is a tradeoff here. If you arrive early at LAX then you get lots of connections but some of those include miserably long layovers. Or an additional connecton at another hub.

    I would guess that the % of connecting traffic on the Aus end is much less than the US end. A later arrival into LAX (or earlier departure on the way back) could provide some better itineraries. For example, you could fly out of NYC early in the morning, connect at LAX and then land in SYD at 11pm or so and still get to your bed that night. That would be a pretty attractive itinerary to me. And QF could also reduce ground time for a/c at LAX.

    Then of course there is the potential to fly into other ports such as PHX. Maybe one day with the 787 we would see a SYD - LAS direct, although that one is probably more a Jetstar route :)

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  • watson374

    watson374

    16 Jan, 2015 01:10 am

    Indeed. For SYD-LAX, you could have the A380 do the 06:30 arrival with 787s doing the late morning and late afternoon arrivals. The A380 would need to do the big overnight flight back getting in around 07:00, so that would have a 787 on the other overnight as well as the daylight.

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  • schlaffa

    schlaffa

    14 Jan, 2015 11:40 pm

    I would not underestimate the benefit of frequency. How many QF pax are connecting at LAX? How many more itineraries with AA codeshares would be improved with a higher frequency? What about flying into PHX and connecting with US flights? More direct destinations in North America?

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    17 Jan, 2015 03:02 am

    Not just one airline.  Air Canada has a true Premium Economy cabin on their 788s and upcoming 789s, while Etihad's new 789 has F/J/Y.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 11:47 am

    Richard one good thing about the 787 is it can do short runs as effectivly as ultra long range. Indeed when Qantas was first planning to get 787's the only time they were mentioned was in realtion to domestic flying replacing the 767's. Qantas never annouced any plans to fly them on international routes. If you recall the only annouced plan was 788's to JQ, then replaced by 789's with the 788's going to Qantas to replace 763's.

    The problem with the 787 and long range flights however is its size. From memory don't think any airline has gone for anything more than two class at present. (not counting United and their economy plus, it is hardly a true 3rd class type, just economy with some extra leg room). Now no doubt if Qantas started flying 788/9 long haul people would want at a minimum business, Qantas premium economy and economy. On a 788/9 basically not much space to put them all. Why do you reckon Emirates is pusing the 787-10?

    For Asian runs the 788 or 789 would be good, but as you mention the A330neo's now give the 787 a run for their money and have the advantage of comminality with Qantas' existing A330 fleet. Long range, as you say the A350 may be a much better choice for Qantas giving far greater floor space compared to the 787 which would allow a genuine 3 class layout with sufficent pax to make it worth while. And of course keeps cockpit cominality with the A330's.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    14 Jan, 2015 01:47 pm

    They don't even need A330neos for the Australia to Asia runs. They just need the existing model in the 242t MTOW version that's just been released. With 6,100nm range, it should even be able to reach New Delhi.

    I think the A330 fleet is in for the long haul, what with thirty frames and the BNE facility. Perhaps a dozen or so 789 options could be exercised and the rest allowed to lapse.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    14 Jan, 2015 02:56 pm

    QF are getting rid of 2 A330s. They'll only have 28 once the new seat roll out is complete.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    14 Jan, 2015 02:58 pm

    28 is still substantial!

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 05:34 pm

    They will still then have another 10 years life left in them. They are not spending money doing them up only to get rid of them. So yeah 28, which as someone said is quite substantial will be around for a while yet.

    Now before someone says they spent money doing up 767's, do remember that it was a minor refurb to specifically to extend life by a few years and the costly items such as the IFE server hardware can and is being used elsewhere, like on the older 737's.

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  • AJW

    AJW

    14 Jan, 2015 03:21 pm

    Agree actually, but if they were to expand services they would need new aircraft and you would order the NEO if expanding. The fuel burn saving on the NEO's as I said give the 787's a run for their money.

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    17 Jan, 2015 02:55 am

    The 787 isn't as good on short flights as it is on ultra long-haul.  In fact, one of the biggest complaints from airline customers is that the plane was over-engineered to suit the ultra long-haul needs of the Middle Eastern carriers rather than the mid- to long-haul needs of the North American and European airlines.  A plane can't be optimized to do all sector lengths equally well.

    This isn't to say the 787 performs poorly on shorter segments, just that the performance gets better the farther you fly.  As I understand it, most of the efficiency gains with newer planes are derived from the cruise portion of the flight, so the longer the cruise the greater the benefit.  That's why Airbus can toss some new engines on an old A330 frame and get similar performance to the 787 on trans-Atlantic routes, for example.  On short-haul routes like SYD-MEL, the advantage of a 787 or A350 over a 737 or A320 is negligible and outweighed by the greater up-front costs.

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    15 Jan, 2015 01:36 am

    When Jetstar hands them down?

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