Qantas this week confirmed that it has put in an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, an investment that will ultimately allow Australia’s national carrier to fly some of the world’s longest nonstop routes from New York and London to Australia. But Aussie-loving travelers will still need to wait awhile—the flights aren’t expected to take off until the end of 2025.
The initiative, called Project Sunrise, has been in the works since well before the pandemic, but it’s now officially back in effect as international travel finally starts to rebound. (Australia reopened to vaccinated travelers in February after being almost entirely closed off to international arrivals for nearly two straight years.)
In addition to confirming the hardware order, Qantas has also shared some of what the A350 cabins will look like and is touting “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.”
That’s reassuring considering that the 10,000-mile route between New York and Sydney will require flying for approximately 19.5 hours. Currently, Singapore Airlines’s 19-hour flight between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Singapore holds the record for the world’s longest commercial flight.
Qantas is hoping to attract passengers to its new A350 fleet (and ultra-long-haul service) with some over-the-top first-class suites that will have a separate bed, reclining chair, and closet. The planes will also feature business-class suites, plus premium economy seats with a 40-inch pitch. (Pitch is the distance between one seat and the seat in front of or behind it—most major U.S. domestic carriers have a seat pitch that ranges between 30 and 38 inches.) Additionally, the aircraft will have 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,” Qantas stated. In other words, with more than 40 percent of the cabin dedicated to premium seating, passengers won’t be packed in like sardines.
In a bid to move toward carbon-neutral flights, Qantas intends to offset all emissions of its A350-1000 fleet, though the carrier did not specify exactly how and what kind of offsets it is considering.
The plan is to use the decked-put planes to fly more direct routes to Australia, including from New York and London. Currently, travelers flying from the U.S. East Coast to Australia need to make at least one layover on the West Coast.
“It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance that has traditionally challenged travel to Australia,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Prepandemic, Qantas operated a 17-hour flight between Perth and London Heathrow as well as a 14-hour nonstop flight between Melbourne and San Francisco.
“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,” stated Joyce.
He added that while the first long-haul flights on the new aircraft will be from New York and London, the planes will also be able to operate nonstop flights from such additional destinations as Paris and Frankfurt.
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