Project Sunrise Lite? Qantas Flies Non-Stop To Frankfurt

Generally, long-haul travel remains off the cards for most Australians due to the current travel restrictions. Despite this, Qantas has been operating a handful of ultra-long-haul flights to repatriate stranded Australians. As a result, the airline was spotted in Frankfurt this weekend.

Qantas, Frankfurt, Non-Stop
Qantas’ Boeing 787-9 departing Frankfurt Airport despite the foggy weather. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

There’s no doubt about it, the current situation around the world has caused great inconvenience for travelers. While many countries operated massive repatriation programs in the early summer, thousands of Australians remain overseas. This has seen Australian carrier Qantas flying to the likes of London, Paris, and New Delhi.

Frankfurt repatriation flights

As part of its repatriation flights program, Qantas is operating two rotations to Frankfurt Airport, the capital of German aviation. Qantas used to fly to Frankfurt via Singapore. However, the Australian airline pulled out of the market in 2013.

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While the service used to stop in Singapore, this was not the case with last week’s flight, operated by a Boeing 787. According to data from, the aircraft in question, VH-ZNK, departed from Perth as flight QF115 at 19:30 on Wednesday, December 9th. The aircraft flew for 16 hours and 51 minutes, touching down in Europe’s financial center at 05:22 on Thursday.

Qantas, Frankfurt, Non-Stop
The flight from Perth to Frankfurt took almost 17 hours. Photo:

The aircraft remained in Germany until Saturday when it departed as QF116 at 10:41, around half an hour behind schedule. Despite miserable weather in the city, the first Qantas departure in seven years attracted over 100 socially distanced aviation enthusiasts to wave off the aircraft from the airport’s perimeter fence.

The return flight was slightly shorter, landing in Darwin after a 15-hour 39-minute flight at 10:50 on Sunday. The rotation took three days, 15 hours, and 20 minutes to get from Perth to Darwin.

Project Sunrise lite?

While almost 17 hours in the skies is an impressive flight, it is by no means the aircraft’s longest flight. Before the current situation, Qantas was operating the world’s third-longest flight. QF9 from Perth to London was scheduled to take 17 hours and 25 minutes.

Qantas, Frankfurt, Non-Stop
Many of Qantas’ long-haul aircraft remain grounded. Photo: Vincenzo Pace –

VH-ZNK once operated a much longer flight than both the leg to Frankfurt and QF9. Almost a year ago, on December 16th, the aircraft flew non-stop from New York to Sydney with a flight time of 19 and a half hours. The flight, QF7879, was part of the airline’s Project Sunrise feasibility study. Onboard, scientists studied the effects of ultra-long-haul travel on the human body. It was joined by another New York-Sydney flight, alongside a non-stop London-Sydney flight.

Following the current situation, Qantas aims to launch regular scheduled non-stop flights between London and Sydney, likely using the Airbus A350-1000. The so-called Kangaroo Route used to take 58 hours to get from Sydney to London, with stops en-route at Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo, Castel Benito, and Rome.

When did you last see a Qantas aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!