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QantasLink Embraces All-Q400 Turboprop Fleet, Scraps Older Models

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Tom Goward | 25/06/2024

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Qantas’ regional arm QantasLink has today announced it will sell some of its older Dash 8 turboprops, and purchase additional larger Dash 8 turboprops. The move comes as the Qantas Group’s narrow body and ultra-long range fleet renewal program is in full swing.

But it is now time for the smallest planes to be updated, with Qantas subsidiary Sunstate Airlines, which operates QantasLink propeller aircraft, to receive 14 additional “mid-life” Dash 8 Q400 turboprops. The first of the type is set to arrive before the end of 2024, with new Q400’s gradually replacing the 19 smaller Dash 8-200 and Dash 8-300’s which have been flying for up to 28 years.

A spokesperson for Qantas told Flight Hacks that these new additions have been sourced from a “reputable international carrier that shares our strong focus on safety,” – but wouldn’t comment on which carrier that was.

The new Dash 8’s will be QantasLink branded with very similar interiors to the current Q400 fleet, but the newest Small Roo aircraft will squeeze in an extra row of seats, for a total of 78 economy passengers. We expect that to reduce legroom, although Qantas was unable to comment on cabin specifics. For now, there are no plans to retrofit the current fleet with an extra row of seats.

Qantas Dash 8 Q400 at Albury Airport

Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson said the turboprop renewal program was part of the airline’s commitment to serve regional Australia, claiming the “mid-life” purchases were also somehow “next-generation aircraft”.

“By consolidating our turboprops into a single fleet type, we’ll be able to further improve our reliability and provide a better recovery for our customers during disruptions as well as reducing complexity and cost for our operation,” says Ms Hudson.

As QantasLink gradually phases out its smallest aircraft, it is likely they will also cancel services to some destinations that are unable to handle the larger Dash 8-400. While Qantas will work with airports lacking the infrastructure to support the larger turboprop, a long-term solution remains up in the air. One crucial link on the chopping block is those mainland services to Lorde Howe Island, of which QantasLink is the only commercial carrier.

“We are committed to ensuring that there is an ongoing air service connecting Lord Howe Island to the mainland and will work with the Government and community to ensure that Lord Howe Island continues to have ongoing air services,” says a spokesperson for Qantas.

This investment comes as the Qantas Group continues its broader jet fleet renewal program, with QantasLink’s third Airbus A220 aircraft to be delivered within weeks. Although Qantas’ latest jets are not without their own issues, with the two QantasLink A220’s currently held having recently emerged from maintenance at their Canberra base, following engine issues common for the type. For now, Qantas expects no impact on the current A220 schedule.

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Tom Goward

Chief Operating Officer & Aviation Nerd at Flight Hacks

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