Australia’s Qantas Airways chose to purchase aircraft from the European plane maker Airbus SE instead of its United States based rival plane maker Boeing Co for supplying of jets for the longest commercial flights of the world to be operated by the airline from Sydney to London.
This is the latest hiccup to Boeing that has been facing a series of issues with its business this year including the grounding of its 737 Max planes globally after two fatal crashes involving the model.
According to analysts, this choice of Airbus by Qantas Airways reinforces the position of European plane maker as the leader in the sector ultra-long haul flying globally even as its US rival Boeing struggles with the grounding of the 737 Max crafts and a tarnished image because of scandals surrounding the production and safety of the planes. The Australian airline is likely to place orders for up to 12 A350-1000 planes that will have an additional fuel tank to take care of fuel concerns for flights as long as 21 hours straight.
The airlines has said that it plans to start its ultra long haul flights in the first half 2023 but is dependent on the airline managing to come to an agreement with the pilots over pays. This is because pilots would be required to undertake shifts of as long as 23 hours, considering the possible delays in takeoff or landing as well as while accounting for switching between flying the A350 and the airline’s current A330 fleet. The airline said on Friday that it expects to come to a final decision on an order in March.
The experience gained by the airline from flying non-stop from Perth to London for two years in which the airline achieved a 30 per cent fare premium over one-stop rivals in premium classes forms the basis of the confidence of the company about the success in the market for non-stop services from Sydney to London and to New York, said Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce.
“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,” he said.
Currently, the longest flight in the world is operated by Singapore Airlines Ltd – operating a flight between Singapore to New York which is of nearly 19 hours duration. The airline uses an ultra-long range version of the smaller A350-900.
In a statement, Qantas was thanked for the choice by Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer. On the other hand, while saying that Qantas’ decision was disappointing, a Boeing spokesman said that the company hoped that its long standing relationship with the Australian airline will be continued.
Since Boeing has recently reported problems such as the grounding of the 737 MAX, structural cracks in 737 NGs and a fuselage split in a stress test of its 777-9, therefore the A350-1000 fit the Qantas brief well and was “a much safer bet”, said Rico Merkert, a transport professor at the University of Sydney Business School.
(Adapted from FT.com)