Travel Upsizing: Qantas looks to Boeing's 'mid-market' plane for domestic routes

08:31  13 june  2018
08:31  13 june  2018 Source:   watoday.com.au

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Aerospace giant Boeing says its " mid - market " aircraft could revolutionise Australian airlines' operations by allowing them to fly more passengers on congested domestic routes while opening up new paths to Asia. Qantas has already flagged it is interested in Boeing ' s "New Midsize Airplane "

Aerospace giant Boeing says its " mid - market " aircraft could revolutionise Australian airlines' operations by allowing them to fly more passengers on congested domestic routes while opening up new paths to Asia. Qantas has already flagged it is interested in Boeing ' s "New Midsize Airplane "

The NMA would sit between Boeing's 737 and 787. © AFP The NMA would sit between Boeing's 737 and 787.

Aerospace giant Boeing says its "mid-market" aircraft could revolutionise Australian airlines' operations by allowing them to fly more passengers on congested domestic routes while opening up new paths to Asia.

Qantas has already flagged it is interested in Boeing's "New Midsize Airplane" (NMA), referred to by some in the industry as the 797, and the plane maker is gauging the needs of airlines around the world while it decides whether to put it into production.

Darren Hulst, a senior managing director of sales at Boeing's commercial aeroplane division, said the NMA was particularly compelling for Australian airlines who are struggling with capacity constraints between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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Upsizing : Qantas looks to Boeing ' s ' mid - market ' plane for domestic routes . - in Sydney last week. Mr Hulst said . Virgin Australia is, meanwhile, renewing its fleet with better efficiency and fewer seats, the business case for Jetstar to - into its peak slots," he said Qantas ' fleet renewal

Aerospace giant says its slated " mid - market " aircraft could revolutionise Australian airlines' operations.

If it becomes a reality, the new wide-body (twin aisle) plane would fly between 220 to 270 passengers up to 5000 nautical miles, and could enter service as soon as 2025.

That places the NMA between Boeing's largest single-aisle aircraft, the 737, and the 787 Dreamliner, the smallest of its wide-bodies.

“Whether you’re running out of slots or whether you’re just looking to optimise capacity for the peak levels of demand... an airplane that has the flexibility to carry 20 to 30 per cent more people at the right time is going to be compelling," Mr Hulst said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association's AMG in Sydney last week.

"Also, with the range capability to fly as far as somewhere like Japan, into and beyond places like Singapore, and secondary markets in South East Asia, it becomes a really compelling opportunity."

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When Boeing Commercial Airplanes ’ vice president of marketing visits Tokyo Narita today, the scene has changed yet again. As far as Qantas is concerned, NMA looms as an ideal replacement for its A330 fleet on domestic routes , both on trans-continental services between Perth and the east coast

Wide-body aircraft are designed to fly between 6000 and 8000 nautical miles, and the extra weight that requires made them inefficient at flying shorter distances, he said.

Optimising an aircraft to fly medium range - such as from Australia's east coast to Japan, China and elsewhere in east Asia - would deliver "double-digit" cost savings on a per-passenger basis through lower fuel usage, he said.

Qantas is interested in a plane that can fly more passengers at peak times. © Jessica Shapiro Qantas is interested in a plane that can fly more passengers at peak times.

Mr Hulst said that with better efficiency and fewer seats, the business case for new international point-to-point routes would be easier to stack up.

“It could play a key role in the growth and evolution of networks here," he said.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has expressed interest in the "paper plane", saying it would be "ideal for the domestic market", with congestion on the busiest domestic routes making larger aircraft the only way to grow.

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"We will have a second airport [in Sydney] hopefully in 2026, but we are seeing the airport filling up into its peak slots," he said in February.

"We know over time to maximise the accessibility to Sydney, we'd like bigger aircraft."

The NMA could be a replacement for Qantas' fleet of 28 Airbus A330s, which have an average age of almost 10 years and service domestic and medium-haul international routes.

Those aircraft seat 271 passengers and have a maximum range of about 4000 nautical miles. Qantas could also swap out some of its 174-seat domestic workhorse 737s for the larger NMA.

Another possible replacement aircraft for Qantas is Airbus' narrow-body A321neo Long Range, currently in testing, which will seat around 200 passengers and can fly about 4000 nautical miles.

Jetstar in February placed an order for 18 of the A321neo LRs, which it will fly domestically during the day and from Australia's east coast to Bali overnight.

"The A321 is a great Airbus alternative, the economics look great, and they will be fantastic for Jetstar to maximise the peak slots in Sydney and also gives Qantas an alternative when it's looking at the replacement of the 737s," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Hulst said Qantas' fleet renewal, which some analysts say is overdue, was a big opportunity for Boeing.

Virgin Australia is, meanwhile, renewing its fleet with an order of 40 737 MAXs, and expects to receive the first of those aircraft in late 2019.

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