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Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Story Of Jetstar Airways’ Boeing 717s

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Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar Airways presently has a fleet dominated by Airbus designs. Indeed, the Boeing only aircraft type that it operates is the US planemaker’s 787-8 ‘Dreamliner.’ However, did you know that another Boeing design played a significant role in Jetstar’s initial years in the early to mid-2000s? This is the story of its Boeing 717s.

Jetstar Boeing 717 Getty
Jetstar’s last 717s left its fleet in 2007. Photo: Getty Images

14 second-hand 717s

According to data from ch-aviation.com, Jetstar Airways operated a total of 14 Boeing 717-200s. The -200 ended up being the only production variant of the 717 family, with versions such as the -100, -100X Lite, and -300X never reaching the factory line. It had a base range of 1,430 NM (2,648 km), and Jetstar’s examples seated 115-125 economy passengers.

All 14 aircraft came to the newly-formed Australian LCC on a second-hand basis. They joined the fleet in May 2004, when domestic passenger services commenced at the airline. These aircraft came from Qantas’s regional subsidiary, QantasLink. Qantas formed Jetstar to compete with Virgin Blue (later Virgin Australia) in the low-cost sector.

QantasLink was also not the first customer for these rear-engined jets. The majority came from former Australian carrier Impulse Airlines, which Qantas had acquired at the turn of the century. However, six came from American Airlines (of which five had started at TWA).

Jetstar Boeing 717 Domino's
One 717 had a promotional Domino’s Pizza livery. Photo: Robert Frola via Wikimedia Commons

A brief operational period

While Jetstar’s Boeing 717s played a key role in getting the airline off the ground (quite literally!), they didn’t have the longest tenure at the new airline. VH-VQC was the first to depart, leaving Jetstar after less than a year in March 2005. By the end of that year, a total of seven 717s had left the airline, representing half of its fleet for the type.

2006 saw just one departure, in the form of VH-IMP in January that year. The remaining six examples departed the following year, with the last (VH-YQI) leaving in October 2007. All 14 aircraft went first to National Jet Systems, where they flew for QantasLink.

Since then, 11 have continued to fly for Qantas’s regional brand, while the other three have moved on to Hawaiian Airlines. A total of 10 remain active to this day, and the other four are in storage. Most have surpassed 20 years old, with the others closing in on this milestone. Hawaiian and QantasLink are two of just three airlines still flying the 717.

Hawaiian Boeing 717
Three ex-Jetstar 717s now fly for Hawaiian, where the type plays a key role in operating the carrier’s inter-island services. Photo: Bryan S via Flickr

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Jetstar’s fleet today

Today, the Jetstar Airways fleet is more diverse than in its formative, 717-dominated years. It features designs from both sides of the industry-dominating Airbus-Boeing manufacturing monopoly, with widebodies also playing a role.

In the future, Jetstar is set to modernize its narrowbody fleet with significant orders for the Airbus A320neo, A321LR, and A321XLR. According to data from ch-aviation, the Australian low-cost carrier presently operates the following aircraft.

  • Airbus A320-200: 48 examples with an average age of 11.2 years.
  • Airbus A321-200: 8 examples with an average age of 12.6 years.
  • Boeing 787-8 ‘Dreamliner’: 11 examples with an average age of 7 years.

Did you know that Jetstar Airways used to fly the Boeing 717? Perhaps you even traveled on one yourself in the airline’s early years? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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