Qantas Airways plans to order 12 additional Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s for delivery from next June and get some options and purchase rights for another 24 Q400s.

The Oneworld carrier says in a statement that by the end of this month it will have finalised a contract with Bombardier which involves exercising the options it has for 12 more Q400s plus it will be getting options and purchase rights for 24 more.

Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, says the additional 12 Q400s are to be delivered from June 2008 and will lift the QantasLink Q400 fleet to 21. QantasLink is the Australian flag carrier’s domestic regional arm.

“This A$400 million ($360 million) investment …is a clear indication of the Qantas group’s ongoing commitment to regional air services in Australia”, says Dixon.

He also says having these additional 72-seat aircraft allows QantasLink to retire all its 36-seat Dash 8-100s by early 2010 and meet projected capacity growth of 19% per annum from July 2008 to June 2010.

QantasLink’s biggest competitors are Regional Express, which operates 34-seat Saab 340s, and SkyWest Airlines, which operates Fokker 50s and Fokker 100s.