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Some airlines are going bankrupt and others are losing vast amounts of money, but Qantas is bucking the trend. Tomorrow, the Australian carrier is expected to announce the second-largest profit in company history. At the same time, the airline is set to announce an ambitious goal: launching nonstop flights from Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL) and Brisbane (BNE) to London (LHR) and New York (likely JFK) by 2022.
The trouble is that there are no aircraft that can make the up to 10,600-mile journeys (17,050 km). So, Qantas is going to have to lean on Airbus and Boeing to create even longer-range versions of their current aircraft. Both aircraft manufacturers are working on new ultra-long range versions of existing aircraft: the A350-900ULR and 777-8X, respectively — but even those would not suffice. Australian Business Traveler quotes Qantas CEO Alan Joyce as saying these still would fall short “with passengers and luggage at full capacity.”
Maybe you’ve already seen Qantas planes in New York or London and are wondering what the difference would be. It’s true that the airline already flies to these cities. However, both flights require a stop to refuel.
For the NYC route, Qantas flight #11 stops for just under two hours in Los Angeles (LAX), making the total journey in 20:50 hours, in a Boeing 747-400. A nonstop from SYD toJFK would take around 18 hours. It seems Qantas executives aren’t focused on the 2:50 hour total time difference as much as the ability to allow passengers 18 hours of continuous flight time to allow a more flexible sleep schedule, without having to deplane for the transfer at LAX. The same goes for London, the same distance from Sydney as New York, which Qantas now reaches with an A380 stopping in Dubai.
Will it work? Perhaps, but these flights aren’t likely to launch by 2022. Developing a new aircraft, even a new version of a current design, takes a significant amount of time and investment by an aircraft manufacturer. And Airbus or Boeing would likely need demand from other airlines before launching such an expensive program. If that hurdle is cleared, initial aircraft manufacturing and testing can take years. Just check how long the Dreamliner took to be certified and delivered.
There’s no word yet whether Qantas would arrange the new plane with no economy seating. Singapore Airlines is planning to launch a similar flight from New York’s JFK to Singapore (SIN) using the forthcoming Airbus A350-900ULR. It will be the worlds’ longest-distance nonstop flight at 9,543 miles, and even that would fall a thousand miles short of the proposed Qantas whoppers.
Singapore plans to install only business class and premium economy on its A350-900ULRs (the acronym stands for Ultra Long Range.) If Qantas does opt to have economy seating for the 18-hour flight, we can at least hope for a generous pitch and lots of seat padding.
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