In 20 hours, you could bicycle the entire 200 miles from Baltimore, Maryland, to New York City (and maybe even have a couple hours to spare). You could watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy back to back. Or you could take the world’s longest flight.
Starting in late 2025, Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways will launch the world’s longest nonstop route from Australia’s Sydney Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport, an effort Qantas has dubbed Project Sunrise. The flight route will cover 10,576 miles and will take so long that passengers can see two sunrises while onboard (it will be crossing time zones in a way that allows for a double sunrise).
On board the plane
The flights will take place on Airbus A350-1000s, the airline industry’s largest wide-body aircraft. Though that aircraft model typically accommodates between 350 and 410 passengers, the Project Sunrise planes will only have 238 seats, including 6 first-class suites, 52 business-class suites, 40 premium economy seats (in a two-four-two configuration), and 140 economy seats (in a three-three-three configuration). All passengers will also be able to access an onboard “Wellbeing Zone, ” which, according to Qantas, will be a dedicated space for movement with a self-service snack bar. There’s no word yet about how much Qantas will charge per ticket or what the in-flight service will look like.
How airlines are able to support super long-haul flights
John Grant, a partner with aviation consulting group MIDAS Aviation, told AFAR that the technology to operate super-long-haul flights has been here for a few years. The issue of implementing it has been more about waiting for aircraft deliveries and proving the concept will sell, which Qantas has been doing with its Perth, Australia, to London service for the past few years.
“The route has to be operated with fewer seats than what would be the normal configuration, which reduces the weight of the aircraft and extends the range,” Grant said. “But for that to happen and for the service to operate profitably, there needs to be confidence that Qantas can fill those seats with premium traffic. The response from the Perth service has proven that the demand is there, so moving forward on the Sydney route makes sense.”
The Qantas Perth to London direct flight started in March 2018. The 9,000 mile trip takes just over 17 hours. According to Qantas’s website, one-way flights from Perth to London in July start at $1,159 for economy.
Laurie Garrow, professor of civil engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and president of AGIFORS, a nonprofit organization focused on airline research, echoed that sentiment, telling AFAR, “What’s really interesting is that Qantas is betting that if they make the onboard experience better for customers and provide more space, people will actually do these super long-haul flights.”
The current longest flight in the world
Currently, the bragging rights for the longest flight in the world belong is Singapore Airlines’ New York City to Singapore route. Its longest flight path, which connects Singapore’s Changi Airport with New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, 9,585 miles away, takes 18 hours and 40 minutes. The carrier has been flying the route since 2021.
The benefit of long-haul flights
Garrow said that as air travel continues to recover from the pandemic, having a connection can be risky. Continued staffing shortages can lead to flight delays, which may cause passengers to miss their connecting flights.
“With more stops, there are more chances something could go wrong,” Garrow said. “If you’re on a nonstop, once you’re on that flight, you know you’re going to get there, so I can see the appeal.”
Still, Grant doesn’t anticipate any other airlines coming to steal Qantas’s longest-flight crown anytime soon.
“I don’t think that there will be many more markets or routes like Sydney to London that are unserved on a nonstop basis,” Grant said.