The process for choosing the aircraft for Project Sunrise is finally drawing to a close. Qantas are now issuing a call for what they dub ‘best and final’ offers from both Boeing and Airbus as they move to select the plane for the world’s longest and most hotly anticipated route.
The chosen plane needs to be capable of flying 10,573 miles nonstop, a journey which is pegged to take in the range of 21 hours in total. Qantas have said they plan to make a decision on the aircraft by the end of the year, with a view to launching flights in 2023.
‘Best and final offers’
CEO Alan Joyce told CNBC that they are in the process of asking Boeing and Airbus for their ‘best and final’ offers for aircraft to operate the ultra-long flight. He said that they hope to have the tendering process finished by August, and if ‘everything else comes together’ to put a final order in by the end of the year.
Joyce is quoted by Flight Global as saying:
“We met in the last two days with senior executives of both Airbus and Boeing, and we had very good discussions with both of them on the aircraft. Both are very keen to win this,”
Beyond this, they expect the aircraft to be delivered by 2022 and for Project Sunrise to be operational by 2023. He also hinted as to what could be expected on board, stating there would be a new first class product, and new and very different economy class product, and an area for exercise and rehydration dedicated for economy and business class passengers.
But what planes are under consideration, and which will Qantas pick for Project Sunrise?
The Airbus offering
With proven long haul capabilities and a worldwide love for the aircraft, the Airbus A350-900 is almost a natural choice for Qantas. However, it’s smaller than its bigger brother, the A350-1000, although right now no variant of the -1000 exists that could make the trip. A larger fuselage would be desirable to Qantas, to accommodate the ‘exercise area’ and other on board comforts.
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According to Flight Global, Airbus have stated that both variants of the A350 could be developed into ultra-long-range versions to cope with Project Sunrise. Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer is reported to have said he is ‘very, very excited’ about the Airbus response to Qantas’ requirements. He is quoted as saying,
“Airbus is in a privileged position by having the only new contemporaneous technology aircraft out there… [we can offer] both [variants] and in particular [the -1000]. We will fight for it [the order].”
Primarily, it seems Qantas is evaluating the yet to fly 777X from Boeing’s lineup. The large wing and new engine are designed to compensate for the heavy frame it has, and its payload will be somewhat greater as a result too.
While the 777X has a greater seating capacity in one and two class configurations, the A350 trumps it on range. As a larger aircraft overall, it could potentially attract higher landing fees than the A350. However, with a wider body, it would give Qantas more space to play with inside.
Qantas will evaluate all offers on the table as both manufacturers battle it out to secure their position operating what will undoubtedly be the world’s most anticipated route. Results of the final offers are expected by August, detailing costs, performance guarantees and maintenance costs, at which time Qantas will have a tough decision to make.