In a major victory for Airbus, Qantas has ordered the A320 and A320neo as it begins a five-year program to restructure the airline. As a 737NG operator, this is a major coup for Airbus, winning another Boeing customer for the neo. It appears that the Boeing re-engining of the 737 remains not well enough defined to effectively compete in the near term.
Qantas has ordered 106 A320 family aircraft, of which 78 will be neo. Engine selection for the aircraft has not yet been announced. These narrow-body aircraft will be utilized throughout Asia, as Qantas enters into joint ventures with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi for a low fare carrier in Japan (Jetstar Japan) and will establish a new premium airline, with Qantas in a minority position, in Asia next year. While Jetstar is an existing Airbus customer, Qantas, a 737NG users, has chosen Airbus rather than Boeing for its new premium airline. While technically it is a new airline rather than a defection, it is clearly a win for Airbus and a loss for Boeing from an existing customer that placed the order.
In that process, Qantas has deferred six additional A380 aircraft, will retire four 747s, and create new routes outside of Australia from bases in Singapore and Hong Kong. Many of Qantas long-haul routes from Australia to Europe are unprofitable, and Qantas proper (excluding Jetstar) carriers only 18% of outbound traffic originating in Australia. Not being able to be the market leader in your home country is not an enviable position, and Qantas has undertaken a five-year program to revitalize the carrier’s operations through joint ventures outside of Australia and culling unprofitable routes. While the majority of Qantas operations will remain Australian, as will its ownership, the Qantas brands will likely expand to additional Asian destinations.
It will be interesting to watch Qantas as it moves forward. The new carrier choosing Airbus rather than Boeing is a major decision, and will certainly be noted in Seattle.