The A350 vs 777X – What Aircraft Will Qantas Pick For Ultra Long Haul Flight?

Qantas are edging a step closer to their decision about which aircraft will operate the world’s longest ever flight. Narrowing it down to a choice between the A350 and the new 777X, they are pitting the world’s two biggest aircraft manufacturers head to head to see who can come up with the goods.

Will Qantas pick Boeing or Airbus?

Boeing and Airbus are due to pitch Qantas on their proposals for the mammoth flight very soon. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has made no bones about the fact he wants to squeeze the two manufacturers for every cent he can, as the more he saves, the more financially viable the ultra-long haul route will become.

The next step is a tender process where Qantas will determine the cost of the proposed aircraft themselves, as well as other associated costs such as maintenance and engines.

“I had an executive from Boeing tell me it was like the space race, the first person to get to the moon,” – Alan Joyce, CEO, Qantas

With only two viable plane manufacturers to choose from, it’s no surprise that Qantas are keen to crank up the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus. After all, making the aircraft which runs the worlds longest ever route is an accolade both companies would be pleased to hold.

What do Qantas want?

Qantas have challenged Boeing and Airbus to come up with a plane which will not only bee capable of travelling the 9,600 nautical miles between Sydney and London, but which can do it in style. They want to offer an exceptional service to travellers who are stuck inside a metal tube for almost an entire day, and that’s a pretty tall order.

London to Sydney

Dubbed Project Sunrise, Qantas want to become the ‘antidote to the tyranny of distance’. When their 20 hour route begins service in 2022, it will become the longest flight the world has ever seen, replacing the current 9,534 mile leader, a route operated by Singapore Airlines between their hub and New York.

We’re expecting Qantas to announce their London to Sydney planes at some point this year, and we also know that it’s either going to be the B777X or the A350. They issued a challenge to both Boeing and Airbus some time ago, and CEO Joyce was feeling positive about progress.

“We’re now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it… We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box. 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.”

The airline has already chatted with frequent fliers to see what they would like on board for this mega journey. Some of the ideas were very exciting, from a creche for kids (yes please!) to an exercise zone and even VR relaxation amenities.

In order to implement any of these suggestions, they need something really special from the world’s greatest plane makers; so, who will come out on top?

Which one will it be?

Qantas aren’t the only airline weighing up the B777X against the A350. Thai Airways have previously said these are the two models in contention for their widebody fleet renewal, and Korean Air are also weighing up the two aircraft for a large order to modernise their fleet too.

Boeing 777X
The Boeing 777X

When we put the 777X and the A350 up against each other, there were pros and cons with each. The 777X has a greater seating capacity both in one class and two class configurations. However, the A350 trumps the 777X on range, offering an impressive 8,400 nmi compared to the 7,525 nmi of the 777X-9.

Although details on the yet to be released 777X are still sketchy, it looks like it’s going to be an altogether heavier aircraft. In fact, Airbus have gone so far as to say a full A350 still weighs less than a 777X will empty. Heavier means more fuel burn, which will be a big consideration for Qantas on this epic route.

The Airbus A350
The Airbus A350

What we don’t yet know is whether there are some special considerations being given to Qantas in terms of the plane design. There has been speculation that an A350-1100 could be in the pipeline, which could trump the 777X on seating capacity, making it a logical choice.

Having said that, more seats isn’t always a winner, as we’ve seen with the demise of the A380. Nothing costs more than empty seats, and if you can’t fill a 777X to capacity, then the A350 is always going to win.

We can’t wait to see what Qantas opt for as their plane of choice for the longest route in the world. Which do you think they’ll go for?