Qantas launches 1st nonstop flight from Australia to mainland Europe – ahead of Project Sunrise

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On June 22, Qantas Airways flew directly from Perth Airport (PER) in Western Australia to Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO) for the first time.

The new route will fly three times per week, and it’s Qantas’ first nonstop link to mainland Europe.

Australia’s flag carrier already offers a direct route from Australia to the United Kingdom, with nonstop flights from Perth to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) which launched in 2018. These flights were paused in 2020 due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions but recently resumed in May. Currently, Qantas is the only airline to connect the U.K. and Australia directly without stopovers. The journey on the Qantas Dreamliner covers 9,008 miles and takes 16 hours and 45 minutes.

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These routes are precursors to Qantas’ Project Sunrise — the long-discussed plan to fly passengers directly from Sydney and Melbourne (which are located on the east coast of Australia) to London, Paris and New York City.

What is Qantas’ Project Sunrise?

Central business district of Sydney and the Opera House with P&O Pacific Pearl Cruise ship docked in the harbor, Australia
Sydney and Melbourne are the target cities for Project Sunrise. (Photo by Steve Heap/Getty Images)

Project Sunrise is the (rather cool) name for Qantas’ efforts to introduce ultra-long-haul flights from Sydney and Melbourne directly to Europe and North America by the end of 2025.

Related: The best ways to use points and miles to fly from the US to Australia

Qantas does currently offer U.K. routes to other Australian cities beyond Perth – Adelaide, Brisbane, Broome and Darwin, as well as Melbourne and Sydney – but these flights all involve at least one stopover (adding a varying number of hours to passenger journeys).

As for the U.S., a number of airlines offer direct flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other cities to Sydney and Melbourne – but none fly directly from New York or the East Coast.

Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot from Qantas)
(Screenshot from Qantas)

The Project Sunrise route has already been tested: Qantas ran a historic test flight from New York to Sydney back in November 2019, called QF 787-9.

QF 787-9 left John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on a Friday at 9:27 p.m. and landed at Sydney Airport (SYD) on a Sunday at 7:43 a.m. It covered more than 10,000 miles and was in the air for 19 hours and 16 minutes, according to the plane’s captain.

Related: Behind the scenes: What it was like on the 19-hour Project Sunrise flight

Notably, the plane flew with the maximum amount of fuel possible, and a minimal number of passengers and crew on board.

Bottom line

Work on Qantas’ Project Sunrise is still underway, but in the meantime, the airline has launched a new route from Perth to Rome. This impressive long-haul journey is the first nonstop flight from Australia to mainland Europe. Despite the pandemic putting a firm halt on all things travel in 2020 and 2021, Qantas confirmed in a May announcement that it had ordered 12 A350-1000 aircraft from Airbus, and said Project Sunrise is expected to launch in late 2025.

Featured photo by Lea Scaddan/Getty Images.

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