Aviation

Qantas brings Boeing 717 fleet back in-house with new deal

Qantas will bring the operation of its fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft within the group, after reaching an agreement with Cobham Aviation Services.

Cobham has operated QantasLink’s 20 B717 aircraft for the past 15 years, predominantly on regional routes across Australia, through National Jet Systems.

National Jet Systems, which holds the air operator certificate for the B717s and is the employing entity for around 380 employees operating the B717s, will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Qantas Group.

QantasLink CEO John Gissing said Cobham Australia’s strategic review, which commenced mid-last-year, provided an opportunity for the two parties to reassess the operating model for the B717s.

“Bringing the operation of our Boeing 717 aircraft into the group provides us with more certainty for the future, which is incredibly important as we come out the other side of the coronavirus,” he said.

“The B717s provide us with flexibility to service many segments of the domestic market, including regional routes, fly-in/fly-out operations or more frequencies to capital cities. These are the kind of routes where travel demand is likely to recover first.

“Importantly, this is a back-office change which our customers won’t notice. These aircraft already have the iconic flying kangaroo on the tail, and pilots and cabin crew already wear QantasLink uniforms.

“Cobham has been a fantastic partner of ours for almost 30 years and we thank them for their professionalism and dedication.”

Cobham Aviation Services Chairman Kim Gillis said the agreement was timely and made good business sense for both Cobham and Qantas.

“Cobham is proud of its successful partnership with Qantas since 1991,” Gillis said.

“This outcome is testament to the exceptional levels of service and safety the B717 pilots, cabin crew and support staff have provided to Qantas over the years. I am sure many of them will see this as being brought home.”

The terms of the agreement are commercial in confidence; however, it is not material for Qantas and replaces a 10-year contract for services signed in 2016. The transition is on track to be completed in the coming months.

As with most aviation employees in Australia, the majority of the Cobham employees who are part of the QantasLink B717 operation are temporarily stood down due to the reduction in fights from the coronavirus.

Cobham said this will remain the case until travel restrictions are lifted and demand returns.

The company will continue to operate four dedicated freighters for Qantas Freight, which predominantly deliver overnight mail and parcels.


Featured image: iStock/Ryan Fletcher

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