The newest addition to the Qantas aircraft fleet will recognise the world’s oldest living culture, with the first Qantas Airbus A220 dressed in a striking Aboriginal paint scheme that’s certain to be widely photographed at airports across Australia.
The nimble little A220 – the first of 29 QantasLink jets which will gradually replace the creaky old Boeing 717s on regional and inter-city routes from early 2024 – is the sixth Qantas plane to feature a unique Flying Art livery developed in collaboration with First Nations artists.
The Qantas Flying Art series was launched in 1994 with the unveiling of the first Indigenous livery aircraft: a Boeing 747 jumbo jet named Wunala Dreaming.
Later additions to the Flying Art family included a Boeing 737 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
This debutante A220, which is set to arrive in Australia before the end of the year, has just emerged from two weeks in the paint shop at Airbus’ facility in Mirabel, Canada, which is home to the A220 family.
Around 100 painters were involved in completing the livery, working with 130 stencils to replicate a detailed design by Pitjantjatjara artist Maringka Baker which tells the Dreaming story of two sisters who traverse remote Australia together, covering vast distances to find their way home.
In the tradition of the Qantas Flying Art series, the aircraft itself is named for the artwork Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa (literally ‘the two sisters creation story’), although all subsequent A220s will be named after native Australian wildlife.
Qantas expects six more A220s to be delivered by mid-2025, although they’ll be less eye-catching than this one.
With room for 137 passengers in a two-cabin configuration of 10 business class seats and 127 seats in economy, the A220s will primarily connect smaller capital cities like Canberra and Hobart with Qantas’ major hubs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The A220 has almost double the range of the Boeing 717 at over 6,000 kilometres, so it can fly between any city in Australia – while also emitting less CO2 and burning 25% less fuel per seat.
“These aircraft have the potential to change the way our customers travel across the country, with the ability to connect any two cities or towns in Australia,” says Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson.
“That means faster and more convenient travel for business trips and exciting new possibilities for holiday travel.”
For more on what you can expect from the Qantas Airbus A220, read our detailed guide below.
Qantas expects to find a set of keys to its first Airbus A220 under the Christmas tree as the airline begins a dramatic renewal of its domestic and international fleet.
Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson confirmed the A220 delivery schedule, remarking last week that “by Christmas, our first Airbus A220 will arrive for QantasLink.”
And while Hudson praised the Airbus A220’s domestic potential as “an aircraft with the ability to fly between any two ports in Australia, burn up to 20% less fuel and make 50% less noise”, it’s also set to embark on short-range international flights, where the efficiently nimble jet has the potential to open up new routes.
Qantas has already earmarked the first Airbus A220 flights between Canberra and Melbourne for early 2024, after it undergoes regulatory approvals, airport readiness and training activities, with other regional and primary domestic routes soon to follow as more new jets arrive.
The A220 will quickly replace the Boeing 717 as QantasLink’s trusty workhorse, with the final 717 being flown out of Sydney in July 2024.
Seven A220s are expected to be flying by mid-2025, and they’ll be supplemented by QantasLink E190s leased from Alliance Airlines, with all 29 A220s sitting in the Qantas hangars by 2027.
Praising the A220 as “a game changer,” outgoing QantasLink CEO John Gissing previously enthused to Executive Traveller “it’s got new technology with a super-quiet cabin (and) it’s got twice the range of the 717.”
That extended range will see the A220 flying not only regional and inter-city domestic routes – connecting smaller capitals like Canberra and Hobart with Qantas hubs at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – but also taking on international routes to South-East Asia as more aircraft enter the fleet, Gissing said.
The first QantasLink A220 aircraft will soon be ready for test flights at the Airbus production facility in Mirabel, Canada (where the A220 began life as the Bombardier CSeries, before Airbus took a majority stake in the aircraft program).
And there’s no doubt that for a little plane, the nimble Airbus A220 is going to have an outsize impact on Qantas and travellers.
Alongside the Airbus A321XLR, the Qantas A220 is part of a sweeping multi-billion dollar renewal of Qantas’ domestic fleet – although both jets are also expected to fly short-range international routes to New Zealand and Asia.