Following the launch of its London to Perth route earlier in the year, Qantas has set itself an even greater goal. The goal of Project Sunrise is direct flights from London to Sydney.
Qantas is considering launching a new direct route to London by 2022 to close the “tyranny of distance” between Sydney and financial hubs such as New York and London. If the business case makes sense, the airline is looking to place an order for new ultra-long aircraft. Currently on the plate are the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777X.
A Long Haul Airline
Qantas currently fly the B787 direct from London to Perth as flight QF10. Scheduled to take almost 17 hours, the flight covers a distance of 14,500km. This makes QF10 the UK’s longest departing flight. The maiden voyage of this route took place on 25th March 2018, becoming the first non-stop flight to operate on the Kangaroo Route.
The airline knows a thing or two about flying long haul. In August 1989 Qantas flew a B747-400, named The City Of Canberra, non-stop between London and Sydney. It took 20 hours and 9 minutes to complete the 17,000km journey. 23 people were on board at the time.
Both Airbus and Boeing are developing new, longer-range aircraft. When Qantas first launched the “Kangaroo Route” between London and Sydney it took 4 days and 9 stops. Qantas hope that these new aircraft will be capable of flying from London to Sydney in 20 hours and 20 minutes. Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, stated that the company aims to place an order for the new aircraft in 2019. This would allow for delivery of the aircraft to begin in 2022.
Once launched, the non-stop flight between London and Sydney would become the world’s longest flight at 9,720 nautical miles. Qantas is reportedly looking to market the non-stop service towards premium passengers. According to industry data, airlines can charge a 20% premium over one stop flights.
In October Singapore Airlines is relaunching it’s Singapore to Newark flight, which takes almost 19 hours, becoming the world’s current longest flight. Singapore plans to operate this route using the A350 aircraft Qantas is considering. Speaking about the A350-900 ULR, an Airbus representative in Singapore said:
“They can fly for up to 9,700 nautical miles non-stop – that’s over 20 hours of flying time. And they can do that because we have modified the existing fuel system so they can carry an additional 24,000 litres of fuel.”
This means that with the current technical specifications, the aircraft’s range is slightly too short for the mission. In August 2017 Joyce publicly challenged both manufacturers to increase the range of their new aircraft to be able to accommodate this distance.
Whilst Airbus and Boeing are working on their modifications to the A350 and B777, Boeing and a number of other companies are working on another project. By using space-age titanium materials, Boeing believes they can have a prototype supersonic aircraft flying in 2025. If this became a reality, the direct flight time could be slashed to single digits.
Whilst it looks like you won’t need to wait more than a few years to fly direct from London to Sydney, you will have to be patient if you want to do it quickly!