Airbus beats Boeing to become preferred supplier for Qantas Sydney-London flights

 Airbus beats Boeing to become preferred supplier for Qantas Sydney-London flights

By Jamie Freed

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Qantas Airways Ltd said on Friday is has chosen Airbus SE as preferred supplier for jets capable of the world's longest-ever commercial flights from Sydney to London, beating rival Boeing Co after a hard-fought contest.

The Australian carrier said it would make a final decision in March on whether to proceed with an order for up to 12 A350-1000 jets fitted with an extra fuel tank to handle flights of up to 21 hours.

The flights would begin in the first half of 2023, but remain subject to reaching a pay deal with pilots, who would need to extend their duty times to around 23 hours to account for potential delays.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline "had a lot of confidence" in the market or non-stop services from Sydney to London and to New York based on two years of flying non-stop from Perth to London, where it has achieved a fare premium over rivals.

"The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience," he said.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer thanked Qantas for its selection in a statement, while a Boeing spokesman said it was disappointed with the decision but looked forward to continuing its longstanding partnership with the airline.

Airbus no longer provides list prices for aircraft, but based on its 2018 price list, the Qantas order could be worth up to $4.4 billion before heavy discounts that are standard for airline customers.

The selection of the A350-1000 will add to growing doubts over Boeing's plans to produce the 777-8 that it had proposed to Qantas for the mission.

Boeing had already said the entry into service for the plane, a smaller, longer-range version of the 777-9, would be delayed beyond 2022 but has declined to give a new date, saying it would be based on customer demand.

Customers Emirates and Qatar Airways have indicated they could switch orders for the 777-8 to the 777-9.

The 777-9 is due to enter service in 2021, following delays associated with its GE engines.

The Boeing spokesman said on Friday the manufacturer was focused on the development of the 777-9 and after that it would complete development of the 777-8, with the first delivery scheduled a few years after that.

(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Sandra Maler and Sam Holmes)

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Updated Date: Dec 13, 2019 06:06:40 IST