Qantas Retires Boeing 717: A Legacy of Regional Aviation and a Fleet Renewal on the Horizon.

In a significant milestone for Qantas Airways, the airline is bidding farewell to one of its iconic aircraft, the Boeing 717, marking the end of an era in Australian aviation. The departing 717, registered as VH-NXI, holds a special place in Qantas Group's history as it operated Jetstar's inaugural flight in May 2004, connecting Melbourne and Launceston. Over the past 15 years, this aircraft has served both Qantas and Jetstar, completing more than 29,000 flights and carrying over 1.6 million passengers.

Named "Blue Mountains" after the renowned national park in New South Wales, the aircraft will depart Australia in mid-June to join the fleet of another major carrier in North America. This retirement follows the departure of two other 717s from the Qantas fleet. Due to the limited range of the 717, the journey to its new owner will involve eight fuel stops, including notable locations like Cebu, Sapporo, and Anchorage.

QANTASLink Boeing 717 registration VH-NXI on approach.

The retirement of the 717 is part of QantasLink's fleet renewal program, named "Project Winton." As the airline bids farewell to the 717s, it welcomes the introduction of 29 fuel-efficient Airbus A220 aircraft. The A220, set to arrive later this year, will gradually replace all 20 of QantasLink's Boeing 717s. This new fleet will offer numerous advantages, including a 25% increase in seating capacity, with 137 seats compared to the 110 on the 717. Moreover, the A220 boasts double the range of its predecessor and significantly reduces fuel burn, with a 28% improvement per seat.

The retirement of the Boeing 717 and the introduction of the Airbus A220 mark a significant shift in Qantas' regional and domestic operations. This fleet renewal program is part of the airline's broader strategy to enhance efficiency, lower emissions, and expand its network. Alongside the A220, Qantas is also expecting the arrival of the Airbus A321XLRs in late 2024, further bolstering its fleet.

In 2004 the Boeing 717 took on a new role flying for Jetstar.

The retirement event for the 717 coincided with the arrival of two new aircraft in Qantas' fleet, highlighting the ongoing fleet renewal efforts. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a Jetstar A321neo LR joined the airline, representing a significant investment in modernizing the fleet. The Dreamliner, named "Billabong," has already commenced international operations, enabling the resumption of flights between Sydney and San Francisco. Additionally, it will support the launch of the Sydney to New York via Auckland route in the coming months, further expanding Qantas' international network. The Jetstar A321neo LR, known for its improved fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels, will primarily operate domestic services and flights to Bali.

The CEO of Qantas Group, Alan Joyce, expressed his gratitude for the contributions of the Boeing 717s and the excitement surrounding the fleet renewal program. He acknowledged the role played by the 717s in connecting Australians across domestic and regional routes for over two decades. With the introduction of the A220 and the upcoming deliveries of new aircraft, Joyce emphasized the tremendous opportunities and enhanced passenger experience that lies ahead.

Qantas' fleet renewal program signifies the early stages of the airline's largest-ever fleet transformation. With up to 299 narrowbody aircraft expected over the next ten years, along with the Airbus A350s for Project Sunrise flights, Qantas is poised for a remarkable period of growth and evolution. The delivery of four new aircraft this year and the anticipated arrival of eight more by year-end underscore the airline's commitment to fleet modernization.

The Boeing 717, with its storied history in Australian aviation, played a vital role in connecting regional destinations and serving as the backbone of QantasLink's operations. Originally registered as VH-IMP in 2000, the aircraft operated its first commercial jet flight for Impulse Airlines before being transferred to QantasLink in 2001. In 2004, it took on a new role by flying for Jetstar, further expanding its operational reach. Finally, in 2006, it returned to QantasLink, where it continued to serve faithfully until its retirement.

Impulse launched their first jet services with the Boeing 717.

The 717, originally known as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95, was designed in the 1990s to cater to short-haul markets. With a capacity of approximately 100 passengers, it resembled its predecessor, the Douglas DC-9, in size and performance. After the merger between McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in 1997, the aircraft was rebranded as the Boeing 717. Boeing delivered the final two 717s to Midwest Airlines and AirTran Airways in 2006, completing the production run of this versatile and reliable regional jet.

Looking forward, Qantas' fleet renewal program will see the gradual integration of the Airbus A220 and the A321XLR into its operations. The A220, known for its fuel efficiency and extended range, will provide QantasLink with enhanced capabilities, opening up new domestic and short-haul international routes. The A321XLR, with its extended range and versatility, will support Qantas' expansion plans and potentially serve as a key aircraft for long-haul, low-density routes.

The fleet renewal program not only represents a strategic investment in the future of Qantas' operations but also emphasizes the airline's commitment to sustainability and reduced environmental impact. The introduction of newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the A220 and A321XLR will contribute to lower emissions and improved efficiency, aligning with Qantas' long-term sustainability goals.

As Qantas bids farewell to its Boeing 717s, the aircraft will find new life with other carriers around the world. This highlights the enduring value and quality of Qantas' fleet, which is well-maintained and operated to the highest standards. The retirement of the 717s is not a goodbye but rather a continuation of their journey in the global aviation industry.

In conclusion, the retirement of Qantas' Boeing 717 marks the end of a chapter in the airline's rich history. As this iconic aircraft departs, Qantas looks toward the future with excitement and optimism. The introduction of the Airbus A220 and A321XLR, coupled with the ongoing fleet renewal program, will empower Qantas to reach new heights, expand its network, and provide passengers with enhanced travel experiences. With a steadfast commitment to sustainability and operational excellence, Qantas is well-positioned to continue shaping the future of aviation in Australia and beyond.


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