Qantas has entered the final stages of a formal tender process with aircraft and engine manufacturers for the long-term renewal of its domestic fleet.

The program, which has been flagged previously, will see more than 100 new aircraft enter the national carrier’s domestic fleet by 2034, renewing the Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 717s that currently form the backbone of its domestic jet operations.

Deliveries would start from the end of 2023 but Qantas says it retains significant flexibility to make adjustments depending on market conditions.

The aircraft being considered are the Boeing 737 MAX family and Airbus A320neo family to replace the current 737s, of which Qantas has 75. Both options offer advantages like a longer range, better fuel efficiency and up to 50% quieter operation.

Qantas’ 20 smaller 717s, which fly on regional Qantaslink routes, will be replaced by either the Embraer E-Jet E2 family or the Airbus A220.

The tender process includes detailed evaluation of the aircraft against four key criteria: safety, reliability and performance, sustainability and emissions reduction, and commercial terms. Final decisions on preferred suppliers of aircraft and engines are expected to be made by the end of 2021 followed by firm orders by mid-2022.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, who is meeting Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and engine manufacturers at the International Air Transport Association AGM in Boston this week, said determining the jets that would serve Qantas Domestic for the next two decades was a key milestone for the Group.

“We’re calling this Project Winton, after the birthplace of Qantas in outback Queensland, because this is a foundational decision for the future of our domestic operations,” Mr Joyce said.

“All of the next-generation aircraft we’re considering have the potential to drive big improvements in trip cost and overall efficiency, and they’re great platforms for delivering a better premium service to our customers.

“Not only will these aircraft deliver a step change in reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to around 15 per cent, we’re talking to each of the manufacturers about how we can accelerate the development and use of sustainable aviation fuels for our domestic flying.

“At the other end of the spectrum, we’ll be picking up where we left off with our direct flights to London and New York as part of Project Sunrise, which we hope will start operating in 2024/25,” Mr Joyce said.

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