How Will The Airbus A350-1000 Fit Into Project Sunrise?

Qantas has selected the Airbus A350-1000 over the Boeing 777X in a statement early this morning, but what does this mean for the carrier, and why did the airline choose this particular aircraft for Project Sunrise?

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

What type of aircraft was Qantas looking for?

Qantas wants to join the cities of Melbourne and Sydney with London and New York via a direct flight. This plan, dubbed Project Sunrise, has been in the works for well over a year as the airline tries to figure out just how it will fly the distance.

project sunrise route
The distance of the two routes from Sydney and Melbourne. Photo: Qantas

Qantas has already flown the routes collectively three times with a Boeing 787-9, but this aircraft could only carry 40 passengers and no cargo, proving that the 787 Dreamliner would not be the best choice.

Thus Qantas put out an open challenge to both Boeing and Airbus for an aircraft that could fly these routes and awaited their reply.

  • Boeing returned with the Boeing 777-8X, capable of carrying 384 passengers to a range of 8,730 nmi / 16,170 km.
  • Airbus returned with the standard Airbus A350-1000, capable of carrying 369 passengers to a range of 8,700 nmi / 16,100 km.

Why is the A350-1000 an excellent choice?

Looking at both the choices, there are several items to note about the A350-1000.

The first is that the standard range of the aircraft is not enough for Qantas’ needs. Many have speculated that Airbus would reexamine the A350-1000 design much as they did with the A321LR to see if there is a way to push the engines a little bit more. Potentially, they could even release an A350neo version.

“This aircraft uses the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years,” Qantas said in their press statement “Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for Sunrise routes.”

It also carries enough passengers to be profitable and has a proven track record amongst other world-class airlines (for example, Singapore Airlines uses the smaller Airbus A350-900ULR from Singapore to New York).

The aircraft is also very versatile for Qantas, able to slot easily into the rest of the airline’s route network such as Japan or North America. It has the distance and the capacity to help fill gaps in its long-haul network and will be an upgrade for those that use its aging A330 fleet.

The A350-1000 has seen at least two years of use in the real world. Photo: Qatar Airways

Why did the Boeing 777X lose out?

We don’t know for sure why Qantas went with a different aircraft than the Boeing offering, but humor a few potential reasons.

The Boeing 777X is not yet flying nor certified. It is unproven and there is no telling how long Qantas would have to wait. They may have been offered a Boeing 777-200LR in the meantime, but I think Qantas wants to stick with a modern aircraft.

But don’t worry; an order for at most 12 aircraft is hardly a big loss for Boeing who is looking for orders in the 100s from the likes of Emirates or others.

What do you think about this article? Is the A350-1000 a good fit for Qantas? Let us know in the comments.