The airline said it had committed to buying 20 Airbus A321XLR planes and 20 A220-300 jets and had taken purchase options on another 94 aircraft, subject to board approval expected by June 2022.
Deliveries would start in mid-2023 and continue over the next 10 years to replace an ageing fleet of 75 Boeing 737s and 20 Boeing 717s, Qantas said.
“This is a clear sign of our confidence in the future and we’ve locked in pricing ahead of what is likely to be a big uptick in demand for next-generation narrow-body aircraft,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.
It caps a successful week for Airbus after Singapore Airlines on Wednesday agreed to launch the A350 freighter.
The European maker also looks likely to win a narrow-body order from KLM as early as Thursday, in what would be the second defection to Airbus in 24 hours.
Blow to Boeing’s 737 MAX
The loss of the contract is a blow to Boeing’s 737 MAX, interrupting a strong run of sales since the jet was cleared for flight late last year following a safety ban.
Qantas has operated Boeing jets since 1959 and was once the world’s only airline with an all 747 fleet. The US-based manufacturer will now supply only its long-haul 787 Dreamliners.
“Although we are disappointed, we respect Qantas’ decision and look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership,” Boeing said in a statement.
The Qantas decision comes just two days after Boeing launched a five-year, A$41 million research programme with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to improve aviation sustainability, digital engineering and factory safety and productivity.
Separately, Qantas reported a “significant loss” of more than $1 billion for the December half and warned that the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has affected demand for international travel.
The Australian carrier said it is witnessing strong demand for domestic travel, its freight business was on track for a record year and that it had made progress on paying down debt, allowing it to proceed with a massive new aircraft order.
- Reuters with additional editing by George Russell