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Qantas Partners With Alliance Airlines, Secures New E190s

Alliance Airlines Embraer E190 (Photo: Embraer)

Alliance Airlines Embraer E190 (Photo: Embraer)

Australia-based Qantas Airways will be adding the Embraer E190 to its regional subsidiary, QantasLink, as part of a three-year deal with Alliance Airlines.  Beginning in mid-2021, QantasLink will operate three Embraer E190s from Darwin and Adelaide, Australia to cope with an expected surge in local tourism demand following the end of COVID-19 border closures.

Why the Embraer E190?

Alliance Airlines Embraer E190’s seat 94 passengers, spread across 10 business class seats and 84 economy class seats. With its small capacity and 4,500 km (2,796 mi) range, the aircraft is ideal for flying longer and thinner routes between regional centers with less demand.

“The E190 is a perfect mid-size regional jet for routes like these ones in northern Australia. It has longer range than our 717s and it’s about half the size of our 737s, which means the economics work well on longer flights between cities and towns outside of the top five population centres,” stated QantasLink CEO, John Gissing.

Domestically, Qantas plans to continue operating its mainline fleet, consisting of 75 Boeing 737-800s.  Before COVID-19, Qantas mixed a portion of its fleet of Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s into its domestic operations on high demand routes like Sydney to Melbourne.  For its regional operation, QantasLink operates Airbus A320s, Bombardier Dash 8s, Fokker 100s, and Boeing 717s.  

Currently, Qantas plans to fly these aircraft on routes like Adelaide-Alice Springs, Adelaide-Darwin, and Darwin-Alice Springs. With the introduction of the new aircraft, Gissing states that customers can expect more frequency than with the Boeing 737 that currently flies the route.

“Instead of one or two flights a day with a larger aircraft, we can offer three or four flights a day on the E190, which gives customers in these cities a lot more choice about when they travel,” said Gissing. 

The removal of the Boeing 737 from these routes will result in the redeployment of the aircraft for its “right aircraft, right route approach.”  Furthermore, Gissing says, “The 737s that we currently use on these routes will move to other parts of our network. We’ve already opened up 20 new city pairs with our existing fleet as more people to holiday at home, so there are a lot of possibilities once we get past this cycle of sudden border closures.”

Currently, Qantas Airways E190’s are scheduled to make their debut in June 2021, and will be fully integrated once most of Qantas’s domestic flying has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels.  If needed, the airline can access a further 11 Embraer E190’s from Alliance. Qantas can also return this capacity if needed, based on market conditions.  

Building Relationships With Alliance

Qantas holds a 19.9% stake in Alliance Airlines, with the Embraer move strengthening its relationship with the airline.  Gissing adds, “We’ve worked with Alliance for many years and they have flown literally thousands of flights for Qantas over that time, with the same service and standards that customers expect when they buy a Qantas ticket.”

Qantas acquired its stake in Alliance Airlines in February 2019, facing a backlash from Australian authorities, over potential anti-competitiveness.

However, Alliance Airlines also has a partnership with Qantas rival Virgin Australia.  In November 2020, according to multiple sources, the two airlines expanded their partnership to include 41 routes. Furthermore, Alliance Airlines wet leases planes to Virgin Australia, contrasting Qantas interests. However, Qantas Airways has not interfered with this aspect of Alliance’s business.

Alliance Airlines remains a charter and regional Australian airline based in Brisbane. The carrier is scheduled to receive 30 Embraer E190s total, including 14 from Copa Airlines and 16 from American Airlines.  These aircraft were ordered to supplement Alliance’s current charter and passenger operations with their fleet of Fokker aircraft, allowing them to pursue new business opportunities.

With the domestic move for a perfect regional jet, Qantas Airways needs to focus on its international operation. The airline is still committed to retaining its Airbus A380s, which many airlines have retired due to its high capacity and fuel efficiency. Qantas still envisions opportunities for the Airbus A380 in large markets like London-Heathrow and Los Angeles, though the aircraft will stay grounded until 2023 at the latest.  

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Project Sunrise could take flight in 2024 and beyond, according to EuroControl’s Aviation StraightTalk Live. The project involves flights that would link Sydney to London and New York City using an Airbus A350-1000ULR, making them the longest in the world.

Winston Shek


  • Winston Shek

    Ever since Winston was a toddler, he has always had a fascination for airplanes. From watching widebodies land at Washington Dulles to traveling the world, Winston has always had his eyes towards the skies. Winston began aviation photography in 2018 and now posts his photos occasionally on his Instagram account. He previously wrote for a blog. In his free time, Winston loves to play chess, do recreational activities, and watch sports. Looking into the future, Winston plans to service the aviation industry.

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