Frequent fliers of Qantas are receiving surveys asking them to feed into some really ‘out there’ ideas for ultra long-haul flights. Floating the top five ideas brought up by passengers and focus groups, Qantas are hoping to revolutionize air travel as they prepare to launch the longest flights the world has ever seen.
After launching one of the world’s longest (and most exciting) flights last year, Qantas have been using feedback from customers on their Perth to London nonstop route to form ideas for the future of the airline.
Asking passengers as they exited the plane what they would like to see on a very long flight in future, some of the ideas they’ve come up with are pure genius. Who wouldn’t love to drop their kids at the creche, go for a workout and then hang at the bar for a few hours?
The research is all part of preparations for the airline launching ultra long-haul routes, connecting Sydney with London and New York with zero stops. Dubbed by Qantas ‘Project Sunrise’, they are hoping to have aircraft and approvals in place to begin service in 2022. At 20 hours flying time (or more), these routes will become the world’s longest flights.
Qantas International’s chief executive Alison Webster, commented:
“Our job now is to determine where the most demand is and create this cabin in a way that makes it both affordable for customers and commercially viable for the airline. Everything is on the table and we are excited about what innovations may come from this research.”
What do Qantas passengers want?
The research, conducted in conjunction with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre,
The findings from the research are being sent out in a survey to around 12,000 Qantas frequent fliers. Viewing these passengers as the ‘experts’ when it comes to spending time in the air, they will present them with the most popular suggestions garnered from their initial research project.
Among the suggestions being sent out in the survey are:
- A zone for stretching and exercise
- A bar, café or self-service restaurant
- A creche
- Virtual reality relaxation zones
- A work and study area, including workstations
- Better headphones with noise cancelling ability
- Larger bathrooms, big enough to ‘change and refresh’
Qantas customer strategy and product development head Phil Capps commented on the suggestions, saying:
“It’s still early days and the final cabins may feature some or none of the ideas we’re asking for feedback on, but we want to have the conversation with our customers to help inform our planning. We wanted to put all options on the table.”
Although in flight gyms, bunk beds and spinning classes all sound amazing, commercially they’re not going to make much sense. More likely are things like noise cancelling headphones, VR relaxation programs and potentially spaces where passengers can stretch and do gentle exercise. At the more extreme end of the spectrum is an in-flight café, serving smoothies, wine and canapes.
David Caron, who is working on Project Sunrise, commented:
“Bringing some of these concepts to life will involve an entire rethink around how to be clever about use of all cabin space and what is practically possible, but it may well involve incorporating design elements never before seen on commercial aircraft.”
The ongoing research and feedback from these surveys will help direct Qantas’ investment in the cabin interior, as well as their on the ground facilities. The airline is already very good at looking after their passengers, with stretch classes at the Perth transit lounge and an inflight menu designed to aid sleep and reduce jet lag.
Project Sunrise is still in its infancy really. For a start, Qantas doesn’t yet even have an aircraft capable of ultra long-haul flying.
They’re eyeing either the Boeing 777X or the Airbus A350 for the project, but they’d need to be specially adapted to cope with a 20 hour flight. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce challenged Boeing and Airbus to make an aircraft capable of Sydney to London or New York direct, and the latest comments from him suggests they are just about there:
“We’re now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it,” – Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO (speaking to Australian Business Traveler)
And it’s not just the capabilities of the aircraft which are under scrutiny. Joyce wants a cabin interior which is geared towards a more pleasurable flight too.
“We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box,” he said. “Would you have the space used for other activities – exercise, bar, creche, sleeping areas and berths? Boeing and Airbus have been actually quite creative in coming up with ideas.”
Launching their historic Perth to London direct flights last year has proven Qantas are in the right frame of mind to make ultra long haul a success. They’re convinced that, as long as they listen to what customers want and do enough to alleviate reservations about a 20-hour flight, people will want to use them.
And they’re not the only airline eyeing ultra long-haul routes either.
Singapore Airlines launched the longest route in the world, flying direct to New York on their Airbus A350-900ULR. This superseded Qatar’s 19 hour Doha to Auckland service which used to be the world’s longest flight.
With a new airport opening in Istanbul, the potential for this to be a connecting hub for passengers from every corner of the globe can’t be ignored. If Qantas can make the 20-hour flight work both commercially and practically, the floodgates will almost certainly open for more carriers to go ultra long haul too.