End of an era: Qantas farewells Boeing 717 to welcome new A220

Out with the old and in with the new. The Airbus A220 will reinvent the domestic Qantas experience.

Qantas has marked the end of an era with the departure of one of its Boeing 717 jets, the first of its type to be registered and flown in Australia.

This is the third 717 jet to be retired out of a fleet of 17, which are paving the way for 29 fuel efficient Airbus A220 aircraft as part of the airlines ‘Project Winton’ renewal program.

qantas boeing 717 image2
The end of an era: Qantas pays homage to the first Boeing 717 to be registered and flown in Australia at Sydney Airport

All of QantasLink’s 20 Boeing 717s will be gradually replaced by 29 fuel efficient Airbus A220 aircraft as part of the ‘Project Winton’ fleet renewal program.

The first A220 aircraft is due to arrive later this year and the first of 20 A321XLRs will arrive in late 2024.

Bigger and better

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, said the A220, which can operate double the range of the 717s will open up new domestic and short-haul international routes.

“The new aircraft we’re receiving are much more capable than the aircraft they’re replacing. They can fly further while being much quieter and more efficient and providing a great experience for our passengers.”

qantas boeing 717 in flight

End of an era: Farewelling the 717

In a sentimental send off, the departing 717 was flanked at Sydney Airport by two new arrivals in the fleet – a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a Jetstar A321neo LR.

The aircraft holds a special place in the Qantas Group’s modern history, having operated Jetstar’s first flight between Melbourne and Launceston on the day the airline started flying in May 2004.

The aircraft has also flown on regional and domestic routes for QantasLink for the past 15 years. All up, it has completed more than 29,000 flights and safely carried more than 1.6 million customers for both Qantas and Jetstar over two decades.

“It’s the end of an era for these Boeing 717s which have played a crucial role in connecting Australians across our domestic and regional network for more than two decades,” Mr Joyce said.

Named Blue Mountains, the aircraft is the third of the airline’s 717s to leave the fleet and its range limits mean the journey to its new owner in North America will involve eight fuel stops, including Cebu, Sapporo and Anchorage.

qantas boeing 717 image

A breakdown of the Airbus A220

The single-aisle Airbus A220 packs a promising punch. Don’t let this aircraft’s compact size fool you; a well-thought-out seating configuration and large windows make for a light and airy feel on this small, but mighty aircraft. 

Coined as the world’s ‘most modern small aircraft’, the A220 combines passenger comfort with economic practicality.  

An impressive 6,390km range (more than double that of the Boeing 717) could see passengers fly from Sydney to Singapore in one fell swoop. Here’s what else you can expect onboard: 

  • 137 seats (10 in business class and 127 in economy) 
  • 25 rows of 2-3 seating
  • 32-inch seat pitch
  • A kink in the aisle between business and economy cabins
  • Seatback video screens
  • USB sockets
  • Larger windows of any single-aisle aircraft
  • Reduced noise
  • One-inch extra width room for the middle seat (19 inches)

The A220 could even give Qantas customers a reason to love the middle seat! While some airlines have opted for a seating configuration that makes all the seats the same width – instead adding half an inch to the aisle – it’s not yet known which A220 configuration Qantas has gone for.

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Will there be a business class offering?

Qantas has carved out plenty of room for business class flyers, with ten seats grouped in two-seat pairs.

With international routes on the cards, having a decent business class is important. Luckily, we can expect a business class seat on the A220 to offer a level of comfort one typically wouldn’t expect from a small aircraft – a big improvement from the Boeing 717. 

While we won’t know exactly how Qantas decided to lay out the business class cabin until it publishes the official A220 seat map, passengers can expect 21-inch-wide seats (an inch wider than on the 717).

Qantas can choose between buying the standard A220 business class seat, or hand-pick a model from an Airbus-approved supplier – watch this space.

Airbus A220 v Boeing 717: A comparison

The Airbus A220 is a notable leap from the Boeing 717 in more ways than one. The change will deliver greater flexibility to service longer routes, as well as a massive reduction (20% less per seat) in fuel burn and carbon emissions compared to Qantas’ current domestic fleet.

There’s also a lot to say about the A220’s unparalleled small plane comfort, with special insulation and sound-deadening materials meaning the A220 has half the noise footprint. Even the air conditioning system has been tweaked to reduce airflow noise, making for the ideal environment to enjoy a short-haul nap.

While the A220 has more seating overall, the Boeing 717 makes it slightly easier to get a business class seat. The below table demonstrates how the new Airbus A220s will compare to Qantas’ existing 717 fleet.

Aircraft  Airbus A220  Boeing 717  
Seat capacity  137   
(10 business + 127 economy)  
(12 business + 98 economy)  
Seat width (economy)  Over 18” (19” for middle seat)  17-18″ 
Seat width (business)  21” 20” 
Range  6,390km  2,408km  

While the real point of difference is the A220’s more-than-double range, if you’ve ever boarded a Boeing 717 you know the grief that is loading and unloading luggage into the overhead storage.

Thankfully, the A220 boasts overhead bins that are large enough to fit one standard carry-on roller bag per passenger and swing down quite low to make for a far more pleasant experience.

Summing up

Qantas is farewelling its Boeing 717 fleet to make way for the new and improved A320 aircraft. It is very much a case of ‘out with the old and in with the new ‘in what are some very exciting times for the airline.

 The changing of the guards is part of the airline’s Project Winton fleet renewal program, the biggest fleet renewal in the national carrier’s history.

Qantas’ latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner started flying on the airline’s international network this month, with another two Dreamliners to be delivered over the next three weeks.

Jetstar also welcomed its seventh Airbus A321neo LR aircraft this month, and will receive another 11 A321neo LR aircraft by the end of 2024.

Through a combination of new arrivals and standby aircraft returning to service, the Qantas has returned to around 100 per cent of pre-COVID domestic flying levels and expects to restore 100 per cent of international flying by March 2024.

Are you team 717 or A220?

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4 thoughts on “End of an era: Qantas farewells Boeing 717 to welcome new A220”

  1. Avatar for Simon

    Good ridance to these old dirty planes where the USB ports in Biz haven’t worked for years and the seats are the most uncomfotable I’ve used. A perfect example of Joyce’s incompetence re fleet management – they should have gone years ago. These Qantas puff pieces only make me hate him more…. Hazah KrisFlyer.

  2. Avatar for Carl Kelsen

    While, I appreciate that the A220 could bring benefits for Qantas and its passengers, from my point of view I will total miss the Boeing 717 or more correctly the MD-80 or perhaps even more correctly, the Douglas Commercial Nine (DC9) that the B717 is heavily based on.

    Look closely at a B717 and the see how much better this aircraft really is. Its quality fittings and construction put it well above almost all other passenger jets. Its unique rear mounted engines leave the noise behind where it belongs.

    I will be trying to increase my Qantas Link B717 flights before the opportunity to do so is lost forever. In the end, Boeing 717s are a rare passenger jet with fewer than 130 built worldwide. The B717 is important to Australian Aviation history as it represents in many ways the DC9s operated by TAA and Ansett, the MD80s operated by failed Compass MK I & II Airlines and the B717s operated by Impulse Airlines who introduced them well before Qantas Link did.

    With this background, I hope that one example of B717 (ideally a former Qantas Link example) eventually finds its way into the HARS collection or the Qantas Longreach museum. So, enjoy the B717 experience while you still can. The clock is ticking for the wonderful B717. It will be sad to see this aircraft leave Australia.

  3. Avatar for Max

    I really hope Qantas have an all aisle access, lie flat seat for the A220 and A321’s. That would be incredible, take a note from Jetblue’s Mint product!!

  4. Avatar for Rodney Marinkovic
    Rodney Marinkovic

    What’s is aircraft A350 to ultra long destination, that ranks is equally belong to A220 aircraft to short to medium distance.
    Both is for front in Comercial Aviation today. ✈🌐🛫🇦🇺🛫
    Qantas secod quitter of centaury is insured.

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