Australian Airways Boeing 777-200ER
Along with Air Turkey, Australian Airways was one of a number of airlines that helped Boeing develop the 777. On 12 November 1991, Australian Airways ordered 18 of the 777-200ER. with the first one arriving in Sydney on the 1 January 1997, while the United States was still in 1996. It flew nonstop from Seattle to Sydney on it's way down under. They would go on to order 18 777-300ERs and 7 777-200LRs at the 2002 Farnborough Air Show.
The 777-200ER would first fly paying passengers on 10 January 1997 as AU0707 SYD-CGK, and back as AU0708. In the first year, the 772 would serve Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Tokyo. Later on, it would serve the first nonstop Sydney to Delhi and Mumbai flights in 2003, too.
However, in the 2000s, Airbus announced the Airbus A350 program and Australian Airways took interest. On day one of the 2011 Paris Air Show, after months of rumors, Australian Airways ordered 20 A350s, split between 13 A350-900s and 7 A350-1000s. It looked like the end of the 777-200ERs was nearer than previously thought. On 16 June 2016, Australian Airways announced the retirement plan of the 777-200ER, which involved the fleet gradually phasing out until the end of 2020 when they would finally retire them.
Over the years, as they gradually retired and were pulled off of international services, the planes found themselves flying more domestic and trans-Tasman routes than ever before. It got to a point where out of the 40 or so flights from Sydney to Melbourne (and of course back), up to 14 were on the 777-200ER, and the same for around half of the Sydney to Auckland flights each day.
COVID-19 decided to throw a small spanner in the works, as international travel demand dropped off like it had never had before. All of a sudden, it felt that Australian Airways has too many planes. On 16 March 2020, it was announced that the retirement of the 777-200ERs would be brought forward to May of that year. The last regularly scheduled passenger flight of the 777-200ER would be AU0333 from Sydney to Melbourne on 30 March 2020, but sadly, this flight was very empty, thanks entirely to COVID-19. Less than 40 people were onboard that flight. The final flight was scheduled initially to be full of paying avgeeks who would receive great goodies and a wonderful final experience on the 777-200ER, but COVID said "No" to that plan. Luckily for avgeeks, Australian Airways, for a limited time, offered some special memorabilia of the 777-200ER in April/May to commemorate the retirement.
Many Aussies (and Kiwis too) have fond memories flying onboard the Australian Airways 777-200ER. It opened up nonstop Sydney-Delhi and Mumbai flights for the first time in 2003, and served as one of the key elements to the fleet.
But, there is still good news. For, you see, Australian Airways still operate all 7 of their 777-200LRs. They operate it on the following routes:
SYD-SEA (restarts 1 October)
MEL-SYD-GRU (restarts 18 November)
SYD-LAS (seasonal only, restarts 8 November)
You still have a chance to fly onboard an Australian Airways 777-200! (Well, of course you don't actually. It doesn't exist!)
VH-AXB: 1997 Boeing 777-223ER | Australian Airways | Currently: Stored in Mojave, USA, awaiting to be scrapped or stripped for spare parts.