Australia's flag carrier is adding capacity by taking 737-800s from a deferred order by Oneworld partner American

Qantas is adding capacity almost immediately to plug more of the gaps created by the collapse of Ansett Airlines, with the carrier confirming on 28 October that it is acquiring 15 new Boeing 737-800s between January and July.

The early firm delivery slots are being achieved by taking aircraft from a deferred order by Oneworld partner American Airlines. The deal includes options for 60 more aircraft to replace its 737-300/400 fleet.

Prior to delivery, the 737s will be equipped with Qantas interiors featuring a one-class configuration with at least 165 seats and will join 25 of Qantas' 737s to create a dedicated fleet of 40 aircraft to operate in the low-cost domestic market.

The selection of the 737 followed a week-long nose-to-nose comparison of the Boeing twinjet and the rival Airbus A320, with the final selection going in Boeing's favour by its more competitive pricing, say sources.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon has used the 737-800 purchase - a "huge financial commitment" - to express concerns over government plans to subsidise operations of Ansett Mark II and the expansion of Virgin Blue. "To subsidise particular airlines on selected routes will create distortions that could harm the industry for years. Using taxpayers' funds to prop up our rivals is the antithesis of what has been preached in Australia about competition in recent years," he says, adding that it is not realistic to expect the fully privatised Qantas to prosper if its competition is subsidised.

Meanwhile, the flag carrier says a 10-year strategic alliance with American will be finalised in the next few weeks. Qantas will adopt American's configuration as standard for its single-aisle fleet, says Dixon, "creating opportunities for short-term leasing between the airlines to cater for peaks and troughs in demand".

The deal also comprises:

joint purchasing; Qantas' progressive relocation to American's Los Angeles terminal; Qantas commencing non-stop services from Auckland to American's Dallas-Fort Worth hub when its new Boeing 747-400ERs begin arriving late next year; Australian access to additional US and South American markets; expansion of the two carriers' codeshare and frequent flyer deal.

Source: Flight International