Qantas fleet strategy in disarray due to A380, B787 delays


Hot on the heels of the ATSB report on QFA32, The Age also reports about how the Trent 900 delay (and subsequent A380 delay), and B787 delays has left Qantas’ and Jetstar’s fleet strategy in disarray, and either keeping aircraft to-be-retired in their fleet, or pulling aircraft back out of retirement.

What’s interesting of note is what Boeing made an analyst and aviation blogger do to the photos of the B787 incident on his site. Either way, it’s another interesting read, and puts perspective on what’s going on in QFA’s world after being hit by a double-whammy.

Dreamliner, A380 delays leave Qantas waiting on the wings
December 3, 2010 - 7:30PM

With delivery of new aircraft delayed, Qantas is retaining planes that might have been retired, writes Clive Dorman.

Qantas’s fleet strategy is in disarray after after the airline’s apparent gamble on two new aircraft types to carry the bulk of its international passengers in the next decade has seemingly backfired.

The airline has been forced to continue using Boeing 747s and 767s long after it had planned to start retiring them because of delays in delivery of new Airbus A380s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Last month’s grounding of the Qantas A380 fleet was merely an unplanned magnification of a problem that has been brewing for most of the past decade.

At the same time, Qantas has faced a three-year union campaign to try to stop the airline sub-contracting maintenance to overseas companies to reduce engineering costs. This has coincided with an increase in highly publicised technical faults that have disrupted mostly international flights operated by ageing aircraft.

A 12-month delay in the delivery of A380s, that eventually arrived late in 2008, triggered the decision by Qantas to retain its 747-400s, the first of which came to the airline more than 21 years ago. The only “new” 747s in Qantas’s fleet of 26 are six 747-400ERs, a model with extra range designed for North American routes, which were delivered in 2002 and 2003.

At the same time, the airline has been forced to retain Boeing 767-300s, the wide-body workhorses in the domestic fleet, because of the growing crisis in the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Dreamliners were originally promised to airlines in 2008. After delays caused by weight problems and the failure of composite materials during testing, Boeing said it would begin deliveries of Dreamliners to airlines at the end of this year but the entire 787 certification program has been suspended after a fire aboard one of the prototypes in Texas on November 9. This places in doubt recent Qantas negotiations to bring forward the first 787 deliveries destined for subsidiary Jetstar to “mid-2012”.

A former Sydney Morning Herald aviation writer and now an independent analyst of aviation and airline technical issues, Ben Sandilands, was forced by Boeing to black out photos of the Texas 787 fire he had published on his blog site (

He echoes the thoughts of other industry analysts who have been warning for years that Qantas’s fleet policy is heading for trouble and says it is now impossible for Boeing to deliver Jetstar’s 787s on time in 2012.

Changes to the 787’s specifications, which Jetstar wants to use for services to Europe and the US, have “completely destroyed the original Qantas business case for the 787”, Sandilands says.

“Certainly nothing that Boeing has said recently would encourage us to believe that this jet is going to be able to [fly non-stop to the US] in its early production models. In fact, there would have to be a question mark whether the 787-8 will make it non-stop from Singapore to anywhere worth landing in Europe.”

Sandilands says the jet seems increasingly likely to be applicable to medium-range routes between Australia and Japan and Singapore and Australia.

Qantas, however, has continued to express its confidence in the new 787s and a Jetstar spokesman, Simon Westaway, confirms that the Dreamliner’s role will increasingly be in Asia.