Airbus Gains Entry to Qantas, But Boeing Still Reigns
WILLIAM DENNIS/MELBOURNE and SYDNEY
Airbus may have crashed the Boeing-Qantas party with an order for 12 Airbus A380s and 13 A330/200/300s, but the 747-400 is expected to remain honored guest of the airline's fleet for the next five years.
Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon said the carrier expects delivery of 25 additional -400s beginning in March 2002 to 2006, and has six of the Increased Gross Weight versions on order.
The 12 A380s Qantas committed to purchase late last year are scheduled for delivery in 2006-11, and Dixon said the -400s are to remain the core aircraft for services to Singapore and European destinations, including London. Qantas 767-300s would be deployed on some domestic routes and services to Singapore, China and Taipei.
Dixon said heavy demand for Japan services is pushing Qantas to buy or lease 767-400s to replace 767-300ERs. The airline also plans to acquire more narrow-body aircraft in its domestic fleet of 22 737-400s and six -300s.
Until Dec. 12, 2000, Qantas had an all-Boeing fleet. The order for the A380s and A330s was the first ever from Qantas for the Toulouse-based manufacturer, which had fought fruitless battles with Boeing in the past even for narrow-body aircraft orders.
QANTAS HAD FOUR A300s in its fleet for a short-term period several years ago. These aircraft, part of Qantas' purchase of now-defunct domestic carrier Australian Airlines, were subsequently sold.
With the A380, Qantas would be able to provide additional capacity from Sydney to Los Angeles and Europe--enough to fill 555 seats, according to Dixon. Increasing capacity by about 40% would necessitate a significant change in the aircraft type used on these routes.
The CEO said that while Melbourne-Los Angeles routes would have the added capacity by the time the aircraft is scheduled to enter service, there are no plans in place for upgrading the airport's runway and taxiway specifically to handle the A380.
"Part of the contract we have with Airbus is that the company has to ensure that airports would be ready to accommodate the aircraft. In the next year or so, we expect to get assurances from the airports respective authorities," Dixon pointed out.
Melbourne and Sydney airport authorities have not provided Qantas any indication when the facilities would be ready for the 747-400 IGW and A380.
Given that Singapore Airlines and Qantas are the two biggest airline operators in those cities, Dixon said he thinks the airport authorities would fulfill their agreement.
With Boeing abandoning its plan to develop the 747X in favor of faster, lower-capacity aircraft, Airbus could see more orders from Qantas for the superjumbo. The A330s, scheduled for delivery in 2002-05, would initially be used on domestic flights replacing 767-200s that are to be gradually phased out. The A330s would later be deployed on the Australia-Hong Kong routes.
Dixon said Qantas' exhaustive evaluation of the A330 showed that, compared to the 767-200, the aircraft would allow improved economies of scale, higher flexibility and a quantum leap in the number of passengers carried.
The chief of the troubled carrier declined to discuss specifics about Qantas' forecast passenger traffic growth, but commented that economic conditions would determine the rate of growth, not, as some industry observers believe, alliances.
"ONE PROBLEM IN INDUSTRY today is that airlines grow for the sake of growing, but they do not reap profits due to high operating costs," Dixon said.
Qantas, along with Air New Zealand, has been seriously wounded of late by the region's low-cost domestic airline competitors, Virgin Blue and Impulse, who have waged ruthless deep discount wars.
The majors retaliated by adding more capacity, which in turn only spurred Impulse and Virgin to do the very same. Analysts say that the majors would be able to endure the crises, but that they would first need to lower operating costs by 20% (AW&ST Mar. 12, p. 52).
Qantas plans to take some stringent measures, however, including a 25% reduction in middle management staff in Australia, slashing about 1,250 positions in the next six months and eliminating unprofitable routes.
Article from AviationNow