Qantas Will Likely Move Ahead With Project Sunrise Order

Reports indicate that Australian carrier Qantas will eventually go ahead with its plan to order aircraft specifically for Project Sunrise. This will see the airline eventually operate service out of the main Qantas hub at Sydney to faraway destinations like London and New York. The airline’s CEO sounded seemed hopeful about the project during a Friday webcast.

Qantas had initially ‘indefinitely delayed’ Project Sunrise and its plan to order the Airbus A350-1000. However – work on the project will resume once conditions are right. Photo: Qantas News Room

A strong business case

During a Friday webcast discussing the tourism industry, Joyce was discussing his airline’s pursuit of direct, non-stop service between London and Sydney. He is quoted as saying:

“I think the business case for doing it is very strong…the aircraft are not going anywhere. When we are comfortable in doing it and have the financial strength to do it, we will be doing it.” -Alan Joyce, CEO, Qantas

project sunrise route
Prior to the pandemic, Qantas was operating a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with only 40 passengers on board to study the effects of ultra-long-distance flight. Photo: Qantas

Pandemic pause

Before COVID-19 began to take a devastating toll on the global economy and ‘normal life’, Qantas was eyeing an order of as many as 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. Placing an order in the near future would allow the airline to take delivery of some of the jets by 2023 to begin Sydney-London and Sydney-New York flights.

Unfortunately, much has changed as a result of COVID-19. In March, the airline had to suspend the majority of its international flights and ground much of its fleet.

Qantas and Jetstar
Qantas had grounded much of its fleet and suspended work on Project Sunrise due to COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

In an early-May media statement, Qantas announced that it would be extending its current domestic and Trans-Tasman cancellations through to the end of June. Other international flight cancelations would be extended until 31 July. “We don’t know how long domestic and international travel restrictions will last or what demand will look like as they’re gradually lifted,” the airline said.

At the same time, Qantas had told Executive Traveller that Project Sunrise flights had been put into hiatus.

Slow resumptions

According to Reuters, Qantas has said it would triple domestic capacity to 15% of normal levels by the end of this month. Furthermore, the airline says that there is a potential for capacity to rise to 40% of normal in July should state border restrictions ease.

On the topic of international travel, however, Joyce said the outlook was less clear and would depend on the development of a vaccine or at least countries’ getting their COVID-19 situations under control.

For now, the focus is very much on domestic operations. Joyce says that demand will likely rise for holidays in domestic destinations like Cairns and Broome, with his airline offering low fares to help stimulate demand and reduce the A$40 million ($27.76 million) monthly cash burn due to planes sitting on the ground.

When do you think Qantas will finally order the Airbus A350-1000? Will it be this year or the next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.