Qantas is poised to announce its largest aircraft order ever, including the ultra long range Airbus A350-1000 which will fly non-stop to both London and New York. The planes will be outfit with four classes of service, including new seats. That means first class will survive. And Qantas will have one of the most generous economy products in the world.
The announcement is expected to include both the new A350-1000 order as well as finalization of existing orders, bringing the total to:
- 12 Airbus A350-1000s
- 20 Airbus A321XLRs
- 20 Airbus A220-300s
- Options on about 100 additional Airbus aircraft with delivery slots over a 10-year time horizon
Aircraft orders are always pumped up to sound more impressive, and the same orders are reported multiple times – letters of intent, options, firm orders and at ‘list price’ which is about double what airlines actually pay. So be skeptical of the $25 billion price tag of this order, which also includes an assumption of the airline taking all of the planes on option. The real, firm, incremental spend here is likely closer to $2.5 billion.
Qantas will use the A350-1000s, modified to carry additional fuel, on world’s-longest flights like Sydney – London non-stop as well as Sydney and Melbourne to New York JFK. It will also offer generous per-passenger room. The aircraft is designed for around 370 seats, but reports vary on whether Qantas will fit it with 200 – 270 seats. New York – Sydney is about 500 miles longer than the current world’s longest New York – Singapore, and London – Sydney about 1000 miles longer.
The commitment to first class is encouraging, and the product will almost certainly be an improvement over antiquated A380 seats.
Perhaps most importantly coach will offer 34 inches of pitch, the distance from seat back to seat back. That’s 2-3 more inches than United, Delta or American offer. And with the wider airframe of an A350 versus 787, seats will be wider than American’s and United’s.
The plan for an A350-1000 order isn’t really new – it was made shortly before the pandemic – but the closing of Australia to even outbound travel for Australians and significant curtailment of return of its citizens called into question the future of ‘Project Sunrise’ ultra-long haul flying. Meanwhile A321XLRs and A220s will replace Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 717s. Qantas subsidiary Jetstar is also committed to an Airbus narrowbody future.