Once the transcon workhorse, a Qantas 767-300ER at Perth: Commons photo

The Qantas 767s will have a Dame Nellie Melba style extended farewell tour of duty before the end of this year, as this civilised, comfortable, but no longer economically viable airliner exits our skies.

Normal sized adult passengers flying economy will have reason to miss its seven across twin aisle configuration. The seats were adequately wide, and the reduced number of people per aisle compared to eight to 10 across configurations in wider Airbus and Boeing wide-bodies meant that it was an easier jet to get off an on, and vastly superior than is the case trying to do that in a fully packed single aisle A320 or 737.

With hindsight we could call the 767 a narrow wide body.

When the last flight of a Qantas 767 occurs on 27 December on a Melbourne-Sydney flight, the most comfortable seating in economy in domestic operations will be in Virgin Australia E-190s in mainline service, or for Airnorth, or possibly some other charters, provided the resources industry continues to have the, um, resources.

A full timetable for the Dame Ne 767 farewell tour of duty is in this recap of the features of the type in Australian Business Traveller although it focuses on the business class end, which is like writing about the welfare of native fauna caught in the spotlight of a night time shooting party.

Those who recall the Qantas briefings for the introduction of its order for up to 115 Boeing Dreamliners between 2008 and 2020 will know that the airline was declaring the 767 all but totally useless by 2010-2011, when the 787s would have replaced them and its Airbus A330s on domestic and international routes, as well as opening new city pairs for the flying kangaroo.

The past can be such a b****.

But Qantas did well with these ‘useless’ but lovely airliners well past their intended use by dates. The problems with the 767 included their being too generous in the cabin amenity department, and the costs of maintaining an aged airframe, which overtakes all designs as they rack up pressurisation cycles, as well as the inevitably adverse comparisons that become obvious in terms of fuel consumption as newer jets come along with more efficient airframes and more frugal engines.

The 767 will also be missed for its terminal gate friendly dimensions.  If any airline wants to deploy more and more new technology wide body jets on higher frequency domestic routes in this country they will have to cough up millions upon millions of dollars for rebuilding the gates to take the wider wingspans of these airliners either through spending on buildings they own, or through increased fees to the terminal owners.

The answer to the 767 that many carriers have already arrived at is the Airbus A321NEO, a stretch of the A320 which through various internal changes, can pack in almost as many punters as a 767, but continue to use already paid for investments in single aisle jet gates.

We can see the future. It is more efficient, and potentially more profitable, than where we are now. And much less comfortable. So get over it.

Shown below is a Commons photo of one of the Qantas 767s that flew as Australian Airlines, a full service one class international lesiure carrier with its operational headquarters in Cairns, from 2002-2006.

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