Qantas has selected the Airbus A320neo and A220 aircraft families for the long-term renewal of its domestic narrow-body fleet, which currently comprises mostly of Boeing aircraft.

A firm commitment for 40 planes – 20 A321XLRs (extra long-range) and 20 A220s – is expected to be placed with Airbus by the end of June next year, with deliveries expected to begin in late 2023. Qantas will also have a further 94 purchase right options on aircraft over a 10-plus year delivery window as its existing Boeing 737-800s and 717s are gradually phased out.

The order is in addition to Jetstar’s existing agreement with Airbus for over 100 aircraft in the A320neo family. Part of this new deal includes combining these two orders so that the Group can draw down on a total of 299 deliveries across both the A320 and A220 families as needed over the next decade and beyond for Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar.

Once finalised, this will represent the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation history.

The A321XLR can carry around 15 per cent more passengers on each flight than the airline’s existing B737-800s, making it well suited to busy routes between capital cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Its longer range means it can also be used to open up new city pairs.

The small and medium size A220s provide Qantas with flexibility to deploy these aircraft throughout most of its domestic and regional operations. They could be used during off peak times between major cities and on key regional routes to increase frequency.

Qantas has indicated it has “exciting plans” for the next-generation cabins they’ll put on these aircraft, which will be shared in the coming months. The new planes will have noticeably quieter cabins and feel more spacious, which passengers are sure to enjoy.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the airline had called the renewal of its domestic fleet Project Winton after the town where the airline was born 101 years ago, because it’s a key strategic decision for the future of Qantas Domestic.

“This is a long-term renewal plan with deliveries and payments spread over the next decade and beyond, but the similarly long lead time for aircraft orders means we need to make these decisions now.

“Qantas is in a position to make these commitments because of the way we’ve navigated through the pandemic, which is a credit to the whole organization.

“This is a clear sign of our confidence in the future and we’ve locked in pricing just ahead of what’s likely to be a big uptick in demand for next-generation narrow-body aircraft. That’s good news for our customers, our people and our shareholders.”

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