How Passengers Can Stay Healthy On Qantas’ Project Sunrise Flights

The Australian flag carrier, Qantas, completed its first test flight on the much-awaited Project Sunrise. In a bid to launch the world’s longest nonstop commercial flight between New York and Sydney, the first flight is set to provide valuable data to the airline.

Qantas completed its first test flight on project Sunrise between New York and Sydney. How will passengers stay healthy? Photo: Mertie . via Flickr

For a flight in the region of 20 hours, the wellbeing of passengers is paramount. Simple Flying has looked into how Qantas passengers can stay healthy on the marathon flight, once Project Sunrise flights take off officially by 2022/2023.

Project Sunrise

In an attempt to open up a direct route between Australia’s east coast and New York, Qantas is planning to launch Project Sunrise. The first of three scheduled test flights has just been completed. A total of 50 people boarded the carrier’s brand new Dreamliner, dubbed Kookaburra. Flight QF7879 touched down in Sydney after 19 hours and 16 minutes in the air.

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The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is being used for test flights. Photo: Steve Lynes via Flickr

This test forms part of a three-flight research plan announced by Qantas in August, designed to gather data on the flight of more than 16,000 kilometers. The flights will be operating at maximum fuel load. The main outcomes of the research are set to focus on increasing health and wellness, minimizing jetlag and identifying optimum crew rest and work periods.

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Health risks of long haul flights

There are several health risks that are presented to passengers on long haul flights. To understand what passengers will be exposed to for near 20 hours on the Project Sunrise flights, it is important to run over the basic known effects it could have on people.

  • Dehydration: With cabin air humidity at less than 20%, the severe dryness of the air can lead to a quicker onset of dehydration. With the availability of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, this is further exacerbated.
  • Infection: This follows on dehydration, as the drying out of mucous membranes makes a person more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Staying stationary in a seated position for extended periods in a pressurized cabin can lead to the formation of blood clots deep in the body, typically in the lower leg or thigh.
  • Radiation: This is especially applicable to cabin crew and pilots, as the altitude exposes humans to cosmic radiation.
  • Medical emergencies: On a long-haul flight such as Project Sunrise, medical emergencies take on a whole new level of severity.

How passengers can stay healthy

To offset the added stress on the human body, passengers on the Project Sunrise flights will do well to be mindful of the health risks involved and to be proactive in mitigating some of these. Passengers can stay healthy on the flight between Australia and New York by observing these basic health practices:

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  • Hydrate: Hydration pre-flight is going to be very important. Passengers should ensure that they should drink enough fluids. This will compensate for the higher rate of dehydration on the flight. Avoiding drinks like coffee, or alcoholic beverages, will further aid passengers, whilst drinking water throughout the flight.
  • Sanitizing: To lessen the risk of infection, passengers should look at wiping down their seating areas when boarding the flight. Even though cabins are thoroughly cleaned, using something as simple as hand sanitizer will go a long way. This includes using sanitizer when using the aircraft’s restrooms.
  • Keep moving: To counteract the risk of DVT, it is important to move around during the flight. As with all the risks involved, Project Sunrise flights will exaggerate the measures to be undertaken by passengers. Walking around now and then, as well as rotating ankles whilst seated, will help prevent the onset of DVT. Additionally, compression socks may also help.
  • Consult a physician: Passengers with existing medical conditions should consult with a medical physician before boarding a flight such as this. With diminished access to medical facilities onboard, passengers should be sure that their issues will not affect their journey. If necessary, breaking up the flight between Sydney and New York would be in the best interest.
Passengers will have to actively manage their flights, in order to stay as healthy as possible. Photo: Ev Brown via Flickr

Further assessments

As Project Sunrise conducts its next two research flights, the data gathered will enable more thorough health and safety assessments. With Qantas pushing the boundaries of commercial air travel, how will the boundaries of the human body be pushed?

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Bankim Mehta

Yoga on board can really help. I am a pilot and keep doing yoga based exercises on long flights. Happy to demonstrate

Norman

I would be more impressed if they had filled the plane, with the economy passengers packed in like sardines as usual…not much chance of 236 passengers moving around during the flight. Personally I prefer a stop on a long flight, about half way if possible, with the chance to move around the airport, and get a few miles walking … easy enough to do in today’s mega airports … and don’t forget to walk up and down stairs as well.

Matt

I too don’t mind stops along the way. A stop on Honolulu is great way to go to Australia. These extreme long haul flights seem very miserable. I’m going to Vietnam next month, and didn’t realize that I couldn’t upgrade my seat on Korean Air the way I could with Delta. It will be pretty miserable flying to Korea from Vancouver in a 787-9 economy class.

gretnabear

“Our plane doesn’t have the range to haul a full load of passengers with luggage to Sydney. It took off with its fuel tanks maxed out — about 101 tons. To keep the weight down, there’s no cargo, and food and drink are limited. In New York, the captain had seemed confident we’d make it to Sydney with gas to spare. He planned on landing with six tons of fuel, enough to stay airborne for another 90 minutes.” Bloomberg

Javed l

“Flight QF7879 touched down in Sydney after 19 hours and 16 minutes in the air, completing the world’s longest commercial flight.” – This is misleading as there were no fare paying passengers onboard, only crew & employees of the airlines + maybe some aviation bloggers/reporters who agreed to be part of the research flight. ” The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will fly passengers nonstop for almost 20 hours, as it becomes the world’s longest commercial flight.” – Also incorrect as the B787-9 is not at all in consideration for Project Sunrise. Boeing has proposed the B777-8 & Airbus its non-ULR A350-1000.… Read more »