Qantas Selects The Airbus A350-1000 For Project Sunrise

Qantas has just announced that it will use the A350-1000 aircraft if it proceeds with Project Sunrise. The airline says that, after a detailed evaluation of the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, the proven reliability of the A350-1000 aircraft with its two years of service elsewhere makes it the preferred choice.

Qantas has picked the A350-1000 as its preferred Project Sunrise aircraft. Photo: Qantas News Room.

An ambitious program gets a much-needed boost today

Project Sunrise is an ambitious program that will see Qantas fly new ultra-long-haul nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to cities such as London, New York, and Sao Paulo. Project Sunrise has attracted its share of criticism and skepticism with many, including myself, voicing doubts as to whether it will get off the ground.

And Qantas has always maintained that they would make an announcement as to preferred aircraft choice by the end of 2019. Many doubted that would happen as well. But this morning, Qantas made a statement saying the A350-1000 was the preferred choice.

Alan joyce
Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, came good with his promise to announce the preferred Project Sunrise aircraft by the end of the year. Photo: Qantas News Room.

There remains one caveat. The decision on whether Project Sunrise will go ahead hasn’t been made yet. According to Qantas, this will be made in March 2020. The substance of today’s announcement is that if Qantas does decide to go ahead with Project Sunrise, they will be using A350-1000 aircraft.

Qantas will be taking up to 12 aircraft. The airline notes that no orders have been placed yet (which would be premature as the decision whether to go ahead with Project Sunrise hasn’t yet been made) but it will be working closely with Airbus to nut out the contract terms.

Just last month, Qantas told both Airbus and Boeing their Project Sunrise offers needed more work, citing issues with price, conditions, and guarantees.

What swayed Qantas to the A350-1000?

In a statement, Qantas says that after careful consideration of both the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350-1000, the latter impressed with its Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years. Further, Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for these ultra long haul routes.

Some airlines have started to introduce the A350-1000 onto their Australian routes, but this will be the first time the aircraft has been operated by an Australian airline. And the A350-1000 is generally well regarded by passengers. The existing A350-1000 has a maximum operating range of 14,800 kilometers and can seat between 350 – 410 passengers (depending on configuration).

With the production of the A380 ceasing, the A350-1000 is shaping up as the successor to the Boeing 747.

The A350-1000 is shaping up as the successor to the Boeing 747. Photo: Qantas News Room.

Another big blow for Boeing

Arguably, Boeing had a lot more at stake here than Airbus. Although the aircraft order for Project Sunrise is a small order, it is a marque order. It would have given the delayed Boeing 777X program a kickstart. Recently there has been speculation that the continued survival of the 777X program was contingent on it being selected as the preferred Project Sunrise aircraft

What happens now with the 777X program is anyone’s guess. Whereas Airbus would have had to simply swallow their pride and keep on producing the A350-1000 for other customers, Boeing has a lot more to think about.

What do you think? Do you think Qantas made the right decision today? Post a comment and let us know.