Qantas is planning to phase out its Boeing 717 fleet over the next year as it prepares to start taking Airbus A220 aircraft as modern, more efficient replacements.
To mark the beginning of the end of the 717 fleet, the first of the aircraft to operate commercially in Australia, VH-NXI, will be the first to leave next month.
Today this aircraft was sent out under a water cannon salute, flanked by modern Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A321neoLR aircraft at Sydney.
Out With the Old
VH-NXI has flown on regional and domestic routes for QantasLink for the past 15 years.
It started life in Australia flying for Jetstar, and in fact flew the low-cost carrier’s first ever service back in May 2004.
Now, the aircraft will be sold to an un-named carrier in June, and the remainder of the 717 fleet will follow suit until the last departs in late 2024.
In With the New
As a replacement, Qantas is taking delivery of 20 Airbus A220-300s, as well as 20 A321XLR aircraft, under its “Project Winton” fleet renewal program.
The A220s will operate for QantasLink, flying on the same routes that the 717s have faithfully served.
The first aircraft will arrive by the end of 2023, and will usher in a more sustainable future, with quieter and more fuel efficient engines.
The A220-300 is larger overall than the outgoing 717s and will be configured to seat 137 people (10 in Business, 127 in Economy) – a 25 per cent increase with no reduction in space between seats. It has almost double the range at over 6,000 kilometres, meaning it can fly between any city in Australia.
Qantas will also introduce the Airbus A350-1000 as part of its renewal plans.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce joined pilots and crew at Sydney Airport to farewell the 717 and welcome the new aircraft into the fleet.
“It’s the end of an era for these Boeing 717s which have played a crucial role in connecting Australians across our domestic and regional network for more than two decades,” Mr Joyce said.
“It’s fitting that the very first 717 to be registered in this country is making way for another brand-new fleet type, the A220, which can operate double the range of the 717s opening up new domestic and short-haul international routes.
Few 717 Operators Remain
Once Qantas has retired its last Boeing 717, it will leave only Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines operating the type.
Whether a new carrier will take on the former Qantas machines remains to be seen.