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Qantas Takes Delivery of First A220 with Four Stops Enroute

Qantas has taken delivery of its first Airbus A220, becoming the 20th operator of the type. The first A220 is currently en route to its new home operating a four-leg ferry flight from Montreal Mirabel to Sydney, with stops in Vancouver, Honolulu and Nadi.

The A220-300 with registration VH-X4A is the first of 29 A220s ordered by the Qantas Group for operation by its regional airline, QantasLink. The regional carrier has been serving metropolitan and regional destinations across Australia.

a plane taking off from a runway
Qantas Airbus A220. Image: Qantas

Featuring a unique livery based on Aboriginal artwork, the aircraft departed the Airbus final assembly line in Mirabel on Saturday, the 16th of December, 2023.

Currently, the aircraft is on a four-leg ferry flight operating as QF6075 from Mirabel-Vancouver-Honolulu and then QF6076 from Fiji (Nadi), and is scheduled to finally touch down in Sydney.

a map of the earth with a route
Qantas A220 Delivery Route.

How Qantas is Planning to Replace its Boeing 717?

The QantasLink A220s will gradually replace the Boeing 717s currently operating flights across Australia. With its higher range, the A220 is expected to open up new domestic and short-haul international routes as more aircraft enter the fleet.

  • A total of seven A220s are expected to be in service by the end of 2024, building up to a total of 29 aircraft by 2027.
  • The QantasLink A220 will seat 137 passengers in a two-cabin configuration with 10 Business seats in a 2-2 configuration and 127 seats in Economy in a 2-3 configuration.
  • The A220s will mostly connect smaller capital cities like Canberra and Hobart, with major hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Qantas Group CEO, Vanessa Hudson, said that the QantasLink A220s would be a game changer for domestic and regional travel.

“These aircraft have the potential to change the way our customers travel across the country, with the ability to connect any two cities or towns in Australia. That means faster and more convenient travel for business trips and exciting new possibilities for holiday travel. A whole new fleet type also means a lot of opportunities for our people to operate and look after these aircraft.”

Qantas Group CEO, Vanessa Hudson.

As the first Airbus A220 to be operated in Australia, the aircraft will undergo regulatory approvals, airport readiness and training activities before it joins the QantasLink fleet in early 2024. QantasLink has also commenced training its pilots to operate the new aircraft.

an airplane on a road
Qantas Link B717

Earlier this year, Qantas marked the end of an era by announcing the departure of the first Boeing 717 registered in Australia. The aircraft, MSN 55054, was built in 1999 and arrived in Australia in April 2000, joining the fleet of Impulse Airlines and carrying registration VH-IMP. The aircraft gradually joined the QantasLink fleet and eventually became the third Boeing 717 to leave Qantas’ fleet.

“It’s fitting that the very first 717 to be registered in this country is making way for another brand-new fleet type, the A220, which can operate double the range of the 717s opening up new domestic and short-haul international routes. What’s great is that we’re actually able to sell these aircraft for value. They’re not actually worth nothing, they are actually worth some money and they’re being sold.”

Qantas Group former CEO, Alan Joyce.
a plane flying in the sky
Qantas Airbus A220. Image: Qantas

How Airbus A220 Tour Got Qantas Interested?

Visiting Sydney as part of a tour through the Pacific region and Asia, Airbus gained Qantas’ interest in the A220. During a demonstration flight around Sydney, Airbus’ marketing team took Qantas’ then-CEO Alan Joyce for a tour around the aircraft; his response was “It’s a very good aircraft”.

From the cabin to the galleys and even the lavatories, Joyce remained impressed with the aircraft during the one-hour test flight that nearly flew as far as Canberra.

“To me, it looks like a very good aircraft. I think the passengers would love it. It feels very quiet, that’s one thing you do notice. Even the toilets are big.”

Qantas Group former CEO, Alan Joyce.

In the meantime, the Australian flag carrier was exploring options to replace its regional aircraft such as the Boeing 717 and Fokker 100. To be specific, Qantas was closely monitoring the Airbus A220 and Embraer E2 Family.

a green and white airplane with text and images
Qantas A220 Infographics. Image: Airbus

Qantas got a good trial of the Embraer aircraft when it partnered with Alliance and began operating Embraer E1 jets; however, an attractive deal from Airbus, which paired a family of narrowbody jets under one supply chain, ended up being the favourable option.

Eventually, the Qantas Group ordered 20 Airbus A220s, with purchase right options for more, as part of its Project Winton fleet renewal program of up to 299 new aircraft to replace and grow its narrowbody fleet. Earlier in June this year, the airline placed an incremental order for nine additional A220 jets.

Moreover, Qantas also has a large order for Airbus A320neo Family jets including 20 A321XLR (deliveries starting in late 2024) for larger domestic replacement options. According to the group’s spokesperson, the Group will take delivery of a new aircraft every three weeks on average for the next few years.

Feature Image via Qantas