SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — In a move towards improved fuel efficiency and enhanced fleet, Qantas has announced its plans to replace the Boeing 717 aircraft by mid-2024. 

The retiring Boeing model will be succeeded by Airbus A220s as part of Australian flag carrier's "Project Winton" fleet renewal initiative.

Twenty 717s from QantasLink's fleet will be gradually replaced with 29 new A220-300s. These new aircraft offer 25% more seating capacity, hosting 137 passengers compared to the 110-seat capacity of the 717. Additionally, the A220-300s provide twice the range and consume 28% less fuel per seat. The first of these A220s is slated to join the fleet later this year.

In a conversation with reporters on Monday, QantasLink CEO, John Gissing, described the 717's retirement as "bittersweet", confirming that the last 717 would be phased out by July of the following year. He praised the Boeing 717 for its significant role in regional operations and expressed enthusiasm for the forthcoming A220s.

Gissing emphasized the advancements of the A220, including its extended range, quiet cabin, high-bypass turbofan engine, and improved cabin amenities. He suggested that the A220 would enable connections to markets currently out of reach due to the size limitations of existing aircraft.

At a press event, Qantas bid farewell to VH-NXI, the first 717 registered in Australia, which has been sold to a North American airline and is set to leave the Qantas fleet in June. The VH-NXI has served QantasLink since 2006 and previously operated for Jetstar and Impulse Airlines.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce highlighted the significance of this transition, noting that the retirement of the first Australian-registered 717 marks the introduction of a new fleet type in the A220. These new aircraft boast double the range of the 717, facilitating access to new domestic and short-haul international routes.

Joyce acknowledged that Qantas is in the initial phase of the largest fleet renewal program in its history. This plan involves a potential acquisition of up to 299 narrowbody aircraft over a decade, complemented by the A350s earmarked for Project Sunrise flights.

Joyce further noted that four new aircraft had already been added to the fleet this year, with an additional eight anticipated by year-end. He praised the capabilities of the new aircraft, which offer longer flight ranges, quieter and more efficient operation, and improved passenger experience.

The CEO also expressed satisfaction that the QantasLink 717s, including VH-NXI, would continue their service with other carriers instead of being discarded, emphasizing the maintenance and operational quality of Qantas' fleet, and their continued value on the global stage.

Presently, only Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines operate the Boeing 717 in addition to Qantas.