By Charlotte Seet
Qantas Expanding Deal With Alliance Airlines To Meet Strong Domestic Demand
Australian flag carrier Qantas is looking to expand its current three-year deal with Alliance Airlines – a partnership that provides its regional subsidiary QantasLink an addition of the Embraer E190 to its fleet – the airline announced in a press release on Thursday (June 17).
QantasLink already has a current fleet of fourteen E190s, with three already active flight operations. With the partnership expansion, the airline will now be committed to leasing an additional four aircraft, bringing the total in its fleet to be eighteen E190s.
The five-hour rang of the E190 aircraft fits in like a glove for the airline’s route network, allowing the airline to link its regional centers with smaller capital cities.
It also helps to free up the main carrier’s Boeing 737 aircraft fleet to be redeployed for domestic flight operations, allowing for Qantas to launch new routes and increase frequencies on current ones.
Qantas Group Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce, said: “Expanding our long-standing relationship with Alliance gives us access to a different aircraft type without spending any capital. The E190 is perfect for connecting capital cities and regional centers. Its size, range and economics have already let us start seven new routes that wouldn’t have worked with our existing fleet.”
With Australia’s borders still tightly shut for international travel – given the exception of the Trans-Tasman bubble – the popularity of low-cost domestic travel has been increasing.
To meet the steady demand, Qantas is also increasing its domestic flight operations by using its Boeing B787s for cross-country flights between both Brisbane-Perth and Sydney-Perth routes.
Jetstar is also ramping up its domestic flight operations, foreseeing that it will grow up to 120 percent of its pre-Covid schedule in the financial year 2022.
The low-cost carrier will be receiving three Airbus A320 aircraft that will be temporarily redeployed from Jetstar Asia in Singapore, as international travel in Singapore faces a much slower recovery.
These aircraft will join the additional six Airbus A320 aircraft that are currently on loan from Jetstar Japan, as well as five Boeing 787-8 aircraft to complete the domestic flight operations until international travel resumes.
“Since travel demand started to recover about a year ago, our strategy has been to think creatively about how we use our fleet to add capacity back in, generate revenue and get more of our people back to work. That’s why we now have 787s flying domestically and A320s on loan from Jetstar airlines in Asia.” Joyce said in a statement regarding the domestic expansions.
Even with the strong demand for domestic air travel, Qantas may have to revisit its international and long-haul flight operations planning in the near future – with vaccination programs picking up a steady pace – especially in the U.S and the various parts of Europe.
Qantas previously had hinted at its ambitions to operate direct, non-stop flights from Sydney to New York, and even to London and Paris.
The ambition was nicknamed with Qantas as Project Sunrise, and the airline chose the Airbus A350-1000 over Boeing’s B777X as the preferred aircraft, with the addition of an extra fuel tank and an increased maximum take-off weight to deliver the performance needed for the direct flight routes.
“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience,” Joyce said at the time.
He further added that the pairing of aircraft and engine has proved themselves to be reliable after being in service for more than a couple of years and that the A350s had the right economics for future long-haul routes as well.
In the early months of 2020, the flag carrier expected to sign the deal and place an order for the aircraft, but the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the aviation industry and the airline’s plans.
Financial turmoil meant the Qantas had to freeze the idea of ordering any new aircraft immediately, which also included the A350-1000s for Project Sunrise, resulting in a halt to the program in March 2020.
Alan Joyce however, still kept his eye on Project Sunrise with mentions of it in February and May 2021, saying that Qantas will relook into the program at the end of this year as he believes that direct long-haul flights will attract even more passengers in the post-Covid era, instead of having stopovers.
French aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, has also been keen on the airline’s rebooting of the program, because although the order might not be initially large, but it would still give Airbus the competitive edge against American aircraft manufacturer, Boeing.
Although no deals have still yet been made, Airbus and Qantas do seem to continue being in talks together about Project Sunrise. Even if the deal is signed, however, the launch of the program still remains in the distant future based on the pandemic’s effect on international air travel.