Non-Stop to the Other Side of the World
Image - James D Morgan / Getty Images
May 4, 2022.
Australia’s national carrier Qantas has confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s to conquer the final frontier of long-haul travel and enable non-stop flights to Australia from any other city including New York and London from late 2025.
Codenamed Project Sunrise for the airline’s long history of endurance flying, Qantas has also shared preliminary concepts for its A350 cabin of the future that will offer a new level of comfort for all passengers on these direct flights that will cut up to four hours off total travel time compared with one-stop options today.
Customers onboard Qantas’ new fleet of A350 aircraft will be treated to luxurious First Class suites with a separate bed, recliner lounge chair and personal wardrobe; a next-generation Business suite; a new Premium Economy seat pitched at 40 inches, a new Economy seat pitched at 33 inches; and a dedicated Wellbeing Zone designed for movement, stretching and hydration. It has a total seat count of 238, the lowest compared with any other A350-1000 currently in service.
Global travellers can expect more direct routes to Australia, significantly reduced point-to-point travel time and a flying experience that includes a cabin interior and service design influenced by medical and scientific research carried out on three Project Sunrise research flights from New York and London to Sydney in 2019.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “For more than 100 years, Qantas has been at the forefront of transforming the way the world travels, particularly through direct flights. Now, the A350 and Project Sunrise will make almost any city in the world just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance that has traditionally challenged travel to Australia.
“Our direct Perth-London flights started in 2017 and showed strong demand for the convenience and time savings from this kind of travel if the product and service is right. Pre-COVID it was the longest route on our network and had the highest customer satisfaction on our network. All signs point to that demand increasing post-COVID.
“The Qantas A350 travel experience will be truly exceptional, particularly across the premium cabins. Our First and Business Class Seats will set a new benchmark for premium long-haul travel.
“The first Project Sunrise flights will be from New York and London, but the aircraft will also be able to operate non-stop flights to Australia from destinations such as Paris and Frankfurt.
The Australian carrier also announced the renewal of its narrow body jets as part of Project Winton with firm orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s as its Boeing 737s and 717s are gradually retired.
Joyce added: “All of these next generation aircraft – through their lower emissions, longer range, less noise and better economics – will improve how people travel around Australia and overseas.”
“Throughout our history, the aircraft we’ve flown have defined the era we’re in. The 707 introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel and the A380 brought a new level of comfort.
“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance.”
Will carry 238 passengers across four classes (First, Business, Premium Economy, Economy), with more than 40 per cent of the cabin dedicated to premium seating.
The cabin is specially configured for improved comfort on long flights and includes a Wellbeing Zone in the centre and more spacious seating in Premium Economy and Economy cabins.
Will be carbon neutral, with all emissions offset.
All Images courtesy of Qantas unless otherwise stated.
Unsurprisingly Qantas has always been at the forefront of very long-haul air travel, especially given the distance of Australia from everywhere else. That distance (along with that of New Zealand) has given flying there from Europe an additional buzz. Part of that however, also comes from the prospect of some exotic stops along the way.
Doing so in days now long in the past enabled travellers to experience much more than the delights to be found in Australia itself and made such a trip extremely rewarding. The advances in aircraft and engine technology over the years meant many of those stopovers became unnecessary from the point of view of a simple journey from anywhere to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth.
Certainly if the sole objective is to go from A to B then there is a proven market for non-stop flights to Australia's alluring cities. But just how big is that market and how popular will it be? Qantas' CEO Alan Joyce makes the point above that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand on the airline's non-stop London to Perth service was high. He is probably right about future demand and if one can afford it (and there are many who can), first-class looks like the way to go.
The time saving however, is estimated at just four hours. Is being on an airliner for nineteen hours without stopping really worth such a short amount of time saved?
Comments from a number of people since the news was announced suggest that there are many more people who may wish to fly to Australia who do not want to spend so much time in the air.
Yes, there is a market for it and yes, clipping four hours off existing flight times may well be worth it for some. But we can't help feeling that there might just be a strong demand also for less time in the air and a little exploring some of those places in between the two airports at the start and end of the trip.
© KJM Today 2022.