While perusing Air New Zealand’s entertainment booklet on my way back from New Zealand last week to visit the carrier’s new Aviation Institute, I saw this page–and had a revelation.
This humble graphic listing the carrier’s fleet offers the most simplistic explanation to date of why the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is perfect for Air New Zealand but not Qantas, a statement heretical to the chorus of outsiders insisting Qantas should have ordered the triple-seven.
On top is the old and four-engined 747-400. Below is Air NZ’s replacement for it, the new and twin-engined 777-300ER. What the 747′s two extra engines and 12% higher fuel burn, by Air NZ’s calculation, primarily offer is a mere 41 extra seats.
Note that since the 777-300ER has a higher proportion of premium seats (28%) than the 747 (23%), if the 747′s configuration was adjusted to match the -300ER, economy seats would be replaced with a smaller proportion of premium seats, thus decreasing overall seat count (by about 15 seats, my back of envelope calculation suggests) and bringing the 747′s capacity even closer to the 777-300ER’s.
So why is the 777-300ER not right for Qantas? For Air NZ, the 777-300ER is the largest aircraft they need going forward. Qantas, however, needs more capacity. Enter the A380, an aircraft Qantas has consistently filled to Los Angeles, Singapore, and London. Offering the 777-300ER, an aircraft with fewer seats, on key and slot-restricted routes is not justified.
Then enters the argument the 777 could serve secondary Qantas routes, such as Australia to Asia and from Asia to smaller European cities. But there the 777 is too much aircraft. The mainland Chinese carriers, as well as Cathay Pacific, primarily operate the A330 into Australia. Soon Malaysia Airlines will start replacing the 777 on Australian routes with the A330 (a move a few years behind AirAsia X).
Even better than using the A330 instead of the 777 would be the 787, which Qantas would have been doing by now if it were not for programme delays.
So while perfect for Air NZ, the 777 for Qantas is either too little or too much, and not just right.
For more musings on why Qantas was right not to order the 777, see this previous post and discussion. Does this finally settle the debate?