It seems to be that many posters here describe the biggest wide body fleet at Qantas as an accident that just happened. At the time Qantas decided to add a significant number of A330 to their fleet, there were still lots of 747 and 767 around. The 747 used in long haul and the 767 mainly in short to medium haul.
It must have been a conscious decision to go for the A330 to replace the 767 fleet, as that was what the A330 replaced. All the time Qantas had heaps of 787 on order.
Delays in the A380 and 787 could only have played a minor role, the 787 and the A380 were ordered for long haul, when they got delayed, there were plenty of 747 still on the premises.
You do not collect a 30 frames fleet of a model by accident. All A330 were concentrated at Qantas, 11 frames moved from Jetstar and replaced with 787-8 and some new frames added.
IMO they A330 did fit the usage profile by Qantas and IMO still does.
Of course it fits a ‘usage profile’, the question is whether in the future
that profile justifies the complexity of a third type sandwiched between the A321XLR and 787.
The A321 is arguably the bigger game changer. I was looking at flights from SYD to PER in May, and noticed that the schedule is 4x 737 and 4x A330. It’s not far fetched to say that could be 8x A321 or 7x A321 and 1x 787. If they are down to only 1, or even 2, daily widebodies, ‘abusing’ the 787 would almost certainly be more efficient on a network-wide basis than a small A330 fleet, noting that the A330neo is also not optimised for relatively short sectors. The A321XLR also has the potential to add destinations or increase frequency to Asia. Why fly 1x daily A330 to MNL when you could offer 2x daily and/or launch MEL-MNL with the A321? Just because the A330 was the best plane in the 2000s doesn’t mean it automatically is in the 2020s, especially with 787s on property and A321s on order.
There just one point forgotten with the A321, freight. Many of the routes the A330 is flying today are freight heavy. The A330 does also night flights freight only.
Are short and medium haul flights the forte of the 787?
There is not a small A330 fleet sandwiched between the narrow bodies and the 787, the A330 is the main wide body fleet in use.
When borders open and long haul is expanding again, the A380 being used again, than a small 787 fleet will be sandwiched between the A330 fleet and the A380 with A350 being added.
Regarding my ‘sandwiched’ comment, you missed my point even though I put italics. In the future, does the niche between the A321 and 787 exist? Not, does it exist now with no A321s and a shortage of longhaul aircraft due to retirement and storage. To your point, the ‘small’ 787 fleet will almost certainly grow, be it with Jetstar 788s or converting further options. The existing 14 are all converted options, and were not converted in one order. The 787 will only be ‘sandwiched’ between the A330 and A350 so long as the A330 is in the fleet, which won’t be forever. I will repeat what I said up thread, I can’t think of a single airline anywhere in the world that has ordered both 787s and A330neos. Why Qantas, with such a small widebody fleet, would be the first to break that trend seems, to me, bizarre.
Before Covid, Qantas occasionally scheduled 787s on SYD-MEL and SYD-BNE (and I’m talking summer 2019-20, not initial training flights), regularly scheduled them on SYD-AKL, and of course operated them daily on MEL-PER as part of QF9/10. MEL-PER is different as the aircraft continued to LHR, but for Qantas to use them on routes such as SYD-AKL, even SYD-MEL, presumably shows that they are comfortable with the operating costs of the 787 over those sectors.
If we exclude domestic flights for a moment, the bulk of the A330 flying is on routes roughly between 3900mi (SYD-SIN) and 5000mi (MEL-HND). Coincidentally, routes of this length arguably fall within the sweet spot of the A330s performance. On those routes between Australia and Asia SQ, TG, VN, BR, CZ, MU, NH, JL and probably a few more fly 787s, or at least did before Covid. For comparison, FRA-JFK is slightly shorter than 3900mi and FRA-YVR is roughly 5000mi. BA, VS, KL, LO, UA, AA, AC and probably several more use 787s on Trans Atlantic flights of a comparable length. I refuse to believe that all of those 15+ airlines have made a mistake by operating 787s on routes of that length. Yes, this is the A330s sweet spot, but the 787 is still perfectly efficient in this range.
Domestic flying is a bit different, but I personally don’t see the need for as many wide body domestic flights in the future. Qantas had ~30 767s which were almost entirely used for domestic during their final years, but only 10 ‘domestic’ A332s. Some of the ‘international’ A332s and A333s are used on domestic flights, but international flying (pre-Covid) accounted for about 15 of the remaining 18 A330s by my rough count. Using those rough numbers, ~13 A330s replaced ~30 767s. The majority of 767 flying was in fact replaced with 737s, often at higher frequency (e.g. 737s every 15 minutes at peak times on SYD-MEL). Admittedly the A330 can carry more cargo than the 767, but much of the 767’s domestic cargo capacity was replaced with dedicated freighters. Qantas Freight have steadily built their fleet of 733 and 734 P2F over the past decade, and with the A321 and A330 P2F this trend only looks set to continue. Just as the domestic widebody fleet more than halved when the 767s were retired, the same is quite likely when the A330s are retired IMHO, especially with the versatility and capacity of the A321. As I said before, Qantas know the cost and efficiency of the 787 on these routes, and once you’re down to fleet of maybe five or so domestic widebodies, there is very little efficiency to be gained by a new type. I would note again that the A330neo is also not optimised for short flights, and also that the likes of NH, JL, SQ, VN, AA, UA, HA etc use 787s on flights of a comparable length to Australian domestic flights (if not shorter, especially in the case of NH and JL).
Just to be clear, I’m not some die-hard 787 fanboy who will die on a hill defending it. The 787 isn’t perfect for all missions and the A330 is an excellent and very capable aircraft. I just don’t see how two relatively small fleets of 787s and A330neos is more efficient than one largish fleet on one or the other. The fact no airline has committed to a mixed fleet of these two types seems to validate that (compared to mixed fleets of 330/350 and 787/350, both of which are relatively common). Qantas have ordered the 787 and not the A330neo, and to me that answers that question.