The 27th of December marked the end of an era in Australian aviation. Qantas retired the Boeing 767 fleet from passenger service.
Let’s take a brief look at the history of this true workhorse and Australian icon that has been part of the Qantas fleet for almost 30 years. Qantas took delivery of its first 767, a -200 series extended range aircraft, in 1985. The type was first introduced on the carrier’s services to southeast Asia as well as on trans-Tasman and Pacific routes.
In 1987, the carrier placed an order for the larger -300ER series. The -300ER not only had a larger capacity but also an increased range and more powerful General Electric CF6-80 engines. The 767-300ER was delivered to Qantas in a two-class configuration. There were two variants of this configuration, one for international service which had 25 business class and 204 economy class seats, and the domestic configuration, which had 30 business class seats and 224 economy class seats.
The internationally-configured 767s were unique in that business class was configured in a 1-2-2 layout, and the 767s were the first Australian aircraft to offer in-seat IFE in business class. The economy cabin was also unique in that there was a “pod” at the front of the cabin for crew rest, as well as two rows of seats at the rear portioned off for additional crew rest.
Following the deregulation of the Australian domestic market in 1990, Qantas was permitted to once again operate domestic flight routes. With the introduction of the 767 into the fleet, and the domestic deregulation which allowed for increased passenger demand, Qantas used the 767 on domestic Australian flights. The domestic market is where the aircraft really became a true Australian icon. It was deployed on pretty much every major domestic route within the country; the most popular routes were the transcontinentals to Perth, as well as the main east coast triangle routes connecting Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
As the years went on, Boeing 767 international operations were gradually reduced. In 2001, the first Australian international leisure carrier Australian Airlines was born; a number of 767 aircraft were transferred from Qantas to Australian. Following the re-branding of Australian Airlines in 2006 to the new low-cost carrier Jetstar, the 767s were returned to Qantas service.
The final international passenger service operated by the Qantas 767 were the Sydney-Honolulu-Sydney flights, which remained in 767 operation until September, 2014 when the service was replaced by the more fuel-efficient A330 aircraft.
As Jetstar continues to take delivery of the Boeing 787, Qantas is reinstating the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which have been operating under the Jetstar brand name, back in to the mainline Qantas fleet as a suitable substitute to the 767.
There was much fanfare brought on by the final Qantas Boeing 767 flight. The flight, operated from Melbourne to Sydney, was aptly renumbered to QF767 and there were many AvGeeks on board to cover this truly historic event.
Passengers on the final flight were provided with many gifts, including commemorative t-shirts. They were also treated to a fly-by of Sydney Harbor on the arrival, as well as water cannon salutes in both Melbourne and Sydney. It really was a fitting tribute to this outstanding aircraft, which graced the Australian skies for nearly 30 years.
So where to now for the Qantas 767s? Well, as with all other previous aircraft, even VH-OGL’s final fate lies in the dry and barren desert of Victorville, in California. It really is a shame that Qantas has not elected to preserve one of the aircraft, as they have done recently with their first Boeing 747-400, VH-OJA. Whilst the 747 is the true icon of Qantas international operations, it would also be nice to pay tribute to the workhorse of the domestic fleet.
Although it may be sad that the passenger versions of the Qantas Boeing 767 may no longer be around, the sole Qantas 767-300F freighter is still in operation, and has a few good years left under its belt. So all is not lost for the AvGeeks and 767 lovers among us.