The Australian carrier said Thursday that its decision reflected the recession and was not driven by Boeing's latest delay on the 787, announced just two days earlier.
"The agreement we have reached with Boeing will provide greater certainty going forward in terms of our fleet renewal and growth strategies as well as broader resource planning and matching capacity with demand," said Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive, in a statement.
In its agreement with Boeing, Qantas said it will defer the delivery of 15 787-8 aircraft for four years and cancel orders for 15 787-9 jets.
On Tuesday, Boeing postponed the first flight of its fuel- efficient 787, which was expected to take to the skies by June 30. The Dreamliner already was nearly two years behind schedule. Boeing said it had detected a structural weakness in points along where the mostly composite 787's wing meets its fuselage.
Boeing has not given a new schedule for first flight and first delivery, though analysts have predicted a delay of several months.
"The latest delay is disappointing, but we do not expect it to impact the Qantas Group, given these changes to our delivery program," Joyce said. "We remain committed to the aircraft as the right choice."
Hit by dwindling air traffic, the Qantas Group further cut capacity in April, reduced its staff, and said it had deferred deliveries of four Airbus A380 superjumbo jets and 12 Boeing 737s. Qantas indicated then that it was in discussions with Boeing over its 787 orders. The group includes both Qantas and its subsidiary, low-cost carrier Jetstar.
Before the latest delay, Boeing had planned to deliver the first 787 to All Nippon Airways in February 2010, nearly two years behind schedule. Qantas' Jetstar had expected delivery of 787s beginning in mid-2010.
"Delaying delivery, and reducing overall B787 capacity, is prudent, while still enabling Qantas and Jetstar to take advantage of growth opportunities and market demands, both domestically and internationally," Joyce said.
Qantas' cancellation reduces the airline's total firm 787 orders to 50 from 65. The airline retains options for 50 additional Dreamliner jets. Japan's All Nippon Airways also has orders for 50 787s. Only lessor International Lease Finance Company has more Dreamliners on order, with 74 unfilled requests.
As of June 23, Boeing had received 58 cancellations for its 787 this year. A Boeing spokeswoman did not return phone calls to clarify whether Qantas' cancellation was included in the 58. Through June 23, Boeing has just nine net orders for the year.