Qantas' Dreamliner makes its international debut tomorrow between Melbourne and Los Angeles, and the plane promises to deliver insurance against any fuel price rises, says the airline's chief executive Alan Joyce.

The Boeing 787-9 will fly the route six times a week, ahead of starting Perth to London services in March.

''The economics of this aircraft are so amazing that we could fly two of them tail to tail and it is still slightly lower on the current fuel price than an A380," he said.

"And if fuel increases, that gap increases, because a four-engine aircraft is a lot less efficient than these aircraft.


''It does dramatically help insulate you from higher fuel prices.''

While the Dreamliner entered service around the world six years ago, and Qantas had deferred its initial order, Joyce said his airline had made some big investments in other areas in the meantime. It was also cutting costs in its transformation programme.

Qantas had to be ''very disciplined when looking at the return on investor capital''.

The airline had bought 12 Airbus A380s and a fleet of Dreamliners for its low-cost arm,
Jetstar, before starting on the 787-9 programme for Qantas.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce. Photo / Supplied
Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce. Photo / Supplied

The Qantas Dreamliners have General Electric GEnx-1B engines, not the Rolls Royce Trent 1000s that have caused problems for other airlines.

Perth to London flights will mark the first time Australia and Britain have been linked by non-stop scheduled services, and will be the longest Dreamliner route in the world.

Next year on the Melbourne-LA route, the airline plans to use a blend of a non-food mustard seed and jet fuel in Dreamliners.

The Los Angeles to Melbourne flight using the biofuel-jet fuel blend will run early next year.


''We had some big investments that we had to do and with any big airline we're very focused on that to make sure that we're optimising the use of our capital — the big use of our capital was replacing the very old 747s with the A380s,'' he said.

Qantas will fly from Perth to London next March.

''We spent over A$4 billion ($4.36b) doing that, then we had to renew the Jetstar fleet to give them the opportunity to grow and then we were continuously investing in the product — new seats on the A330s, 737s and new lounges around the globe.''

Qantas' three-year transformation programme, in which thousands of jobs have gone, had delivered A$2.1b in benefits. From a record A$2.8b loss in 2014, it had bounced back to a record pre-tax profit of A$1.5b in the 2016 financial year and A$1.4b in the year to 2017.

''What Qantas has done with its transformation is give itself the permission to have a number of years of good times — this investment is going to continue.''

There were pockets of strong profitability around the world, Joyce said.

''The American domestic airlines are probably worth half the profitability of the world, IAG, the Japanese — fantastic — Air New Zealand and Qantas doing very well but everybody else in our region is not doing well,'' said Joyce.

The Qantas Dreamliner landing at Sydney Airport. Photo / James Morgan
The Qantas Dreamliner landing at Sydney Airport. Photo / James Morgan

Profitability depended on what competitive advantage an airline had, and Qantas had a strong advantage in its domestic operation, with 62 per cent of the market but more than 80 per cent of the profit, he said.

Read more: The king of the comeback

Joyce, 51, has been in the top job at Qantas since November, 2008.

He said he was happy to stay in the role for as long as the board and shareholders wanted him to continue.

''There's no timeframe I've given and there's no timeframe that the board has given, and as long as that continues and as long as I'm adding value and the board thinks I'm adding value, then I continue to stay in the job.''

During his tenure the airline had grounded its entire fleet during an industrial battle and had a near-catastrophic engine explosion on an A380, in addition to its heavy financial losses.

The launch of Dreamliner operations heralded better days.

''The good times are a lot better than the bad times,'' he said.

''It's good to be doing positive news instead of bad news — anybody who has gone through those cycles knows that.''