As part of a major restructuring, Qantas is to acquire at least 110 Airbus A320-family jetliners, as it plans to set up a new premium airline in Asia and a low-cost carrier (LCC) in Japan.
The Australian giant also announced that it is cutting about 1,000 jobs from its international business, among numerous other changes intended to tackle weakness in the carrier’s international business. The A320 decision marks Qantas’s first acquisition of the single-aisle type and includes 78 re-engined A320neo jetliners. The aircraft will be used to launch the still-unnamed premium carrier, which will serve Australia and Asia, as well as expanding services in the region for Qantas’s Jetstar low-cost unit.
“We are delighted to be investing in Airbus’ fuel efficient A320 family, including the new A320neo, as part of Qantas’s international transformation plan and Jetstar’s pan-Asian expansion,” says Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce. “The A320 Family’s outstanding operational efficiency and comfort, paired with its environmental credentials, make it the right choice.”
At least 106 A320s will be ordered from Airbus, with another four to be purchased or leased, subject to availability, Qantas says. The decision also includes 194 purchase rights and options, “to support fleet renewal and growth for the next 10 to 15 years”, the airline says.
The A320neo is a new engine option for the A320 Family to enter service in 2015. Alongside new-generation engines, it also incorporates ‘Sharklet’ wing-tip devices, delivering a total 15 percent reduction in fuel and CO2 emissions.
Qantas also said it will establish a new Japanese LCC, called Jetstar Japan, in partnership with Japan Airlines (JAL) and Mitsubishi.
The new carrier will commence domestic operations by the end of 2012, flying from Tokyo’s Narita airport and Osaka’s Kansai International, with other destinations under consideration including Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. Jetstar Japan will later introduce short-haul international services to key Asian cities, Qantas says.
The LCC will be launched with an initial fleet of three A320s, configured for 180 passengers in a single class, expanding to 24 aircraft within its first few years. Total capitalization commitment for the new airline is up to ¥12 billion (US$157 million).
General Electric (GE) announced on 1 September that it has joined Virgin Australia and a consortium of other partners to research and develop commercial biofuel for the aviation industry.
The consortium will focus on pyrolytic conversion of biomass from mallee eucalypt trees and intends to have a pilot biofuel-production unit operating in Australia by 2012.
The agreement comes as the aviation industry increases its focus on tackling carbon emissions, as emissions trading schemes are introduced around the world. As part of GE’s ‘ecomagination’ initiative, the company says it is “already leading the way in the development of fuel-efficient jet engines”, and the development of biofuels is a natural extension of this.
According to Ben Waters, director of ecomagination, GE Australia and New Zealand: “Innovation and creativity will play enormous roles as part of the transition to a low-carbon future. We already invest a huge amount in the development of more-efficient and alternative energy sources in the aviation industry and beyond, and we hope to bring a huge amount of knowledge to this partnership.”
A recent CSIRO report estimated that the aviation industry could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, generate more than 12,000 jobs and reduce Australia’s reliance on aviation fuel imports by A$2 billion (US$2.14 billion) per annum over the next 20 years through the adoption of biofuels.
The consortium also includes Renewable Oil, Future Farm Industries CRC, and Canadian biofuels company Dynamotive Energy Systems, alongside Virgin Australia and GE.
Alongside development of the fuels, GE will assist with the certification process. Before being approved for commercial use, new fuels undergo rigorous tests in laboratories, on engine test rigs and then in carefully monitored non-commercial flights.
THE AIRPORTS Authority of India (AAI) has said it is planning to build 28 low-cost airports in various parts of the country over the next few years, in response to expectations that domestic passenger numbers could increase to 500 million annually by 2030. AAI is also planning to invest 15 billion rupees (US$329 million) over the next five years to build up related infrastructure. According to AAI Chairman V P Agrawal: “We intend to take on development of small airports for non-scheduled air operations. Initially, we are looking at building temporary terminals at these airports.” AAI is also pursuing a project to modernise and upgrade 35 airports around the country. “While the key drivers of growth in the last five years were the low-cost airlines, those for the next five years are likely to be low-cost airports,” says Amber Dubey, director (aerospace) at consultancy KPMG.