Qantas to Retire Boeing 747 Early, Buy More 787s

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Australian airline Qantas International announced Tuesday that it plans to retire the last six of its 747-400s by the end of 2020, ahead of a previous schedule to phase out the Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) jumbo jets by 2022 or 2023. At the same time, Qantas said it would purchase six new 787-9s to bring its fleet of Dreamliners to 14 jets by the end of 2020.

In March, Qantas flew a 787-9 from the Western Australia city of Perth to London’s Heathrow on a non-stop flight of around 17 hours. The Dreamliner has better economics and a longer range than the 747-400 and Qantas plans to open additional long-distance routes to the Americas, Asia, South Africa and Europe using the new planes.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said:

This really is the end of one era and the start of another. The jumbo has been the backbone of Qantas International for more than 40 years and we’ve flown almost every type that Boeing built. It’s fitting that its retirement is going to coincide with our centenary in 2020. Over the years, each new version of the 747 allowed Qantas to fly further and improve what we offered passengers. The Dreamliners are now doing the same thing.

According to the airline, it now has four Dreamliners in service and four more expected to arrive by the end of this year. The additional six are expected to arrive between late 2019 and mid-to-late 2020.

Qantas decided in 2016 not to order any more Airbus superjumbo A380s to add to its fleet of 12 of these massive aircraft. Again, the economics of twin-engine, wide-body planes prevail over their four-engine ancestors.

Although the airline has not ordered any Airbus A350 jets yet, it is keeping an eye on the Airbus A350-900 passenger jet recently entered into service by Singapore Airlines. Qantas has been expected to choose between the A350 and the coming 777X from Boeing for more long-range flights sometime in 2019 in time to introduce new flights between eastern Australia and London by 2022.

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