Qantas Airways has picked Airbus to provide ultra-long-range planes for planned direct services that will stretch halfway around the world, a blow to Boeing after a two-year competition to land the deal, reported Bloomberg.
Australia’s flag carrier chose Airbus’ A350-1000 over Boeing’s 777X for the proposed services connecting Sydney with New York and London and the airline is preparing an order for as many as 12 planes.
Qantas also pushed back its final decision to go ahead with the long-haul routes until March 2020--winning time to secure a new agreement with pilots that is required for the extra-long flights.
Boeing had been chasing the contract ever since Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce in 2017 invited them to take up the challenge. Qantas, which plans to start the commercial services as soon as 2022 or 2023, has flown test runs on the routes—using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Qantas said that a key hurdle has been finding a plane that can make the distance with a full load and still have fuel in hand for emergencies. Airbus will fit an additional fuel tank on the A350 in order to give the aircraft the range to fly the routes.
“We look forward to working together to make non-stop services between cities such as Sydney and London a reality,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer
Qantas’s announcement is a further blow to Boeing at the end of a horror year. The Chicago-based manufacturer’s best-selling 737 Max has been grounded since March 2020 after two crashes killed 346 people. Meanwhile, some older versions of the 737 workhorse have developed cracks near the wings.