Qantas to Order Aircraft for Ambitious ‘Project Sunrise’

Jun 4, 2018

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Qantas launched one of the longest flights in the world last March, and it wants to continue the trend of connecting cities far across the globe.

Qantas plans on placing an order for aircraft that will be able to facilitate Qantas’ goal of ultra-long-range flights, calling the effort “Project Sunrise.” The airline’s CEO told reporters that it would need aircraft that can fly nonstop with a full payload from Sydney to New York or London.

Only two manufacturers can meet that type of demand, Airbus and Boeing. Likely contenders would be either a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777-8 (aka the 777-X) or an Airbus A350-900ULR. Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz said that an ultra-long-range version of its new A350-1000 is on the table, too, which could enable Qantas to carry more passengers on these routes.

Singapore Airlines will be flying an all premium-class A350-900ULR from Singapore (SIN) to Newark (EWR) when it relaunches the longest flight in the world in October. That will clock in at 19 hours of flying time.

“We’re hopeful of having the technical evaluation finished this year, and do an RFP process with both manufacturers at some time in 2019 to place an order for the aircraft for delivery in 2022,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, according to Flight Global. Qantas has been working closely with Boeing and Airbus to develop an aircraft that would be able to take on these extreme routes.

A flight from Sydney to New York would be one of the longest in the world, clocking in at more than 10,500 miles. That’s about 1,500 more miles than the current longest flights Doha (DOH) to Auckland (AKL) and Perth (PER) to London (LHR). Those distances could mean passengers stuck in the air for 20-plus hours.

“All things are on the table as we work through the development phase,” Alison Webster head of Qantas’s international business said. “We are looking at an aircraft configuration that gives us some flexibility and opportunity for around an over 300 passenger seat count on the aircraft for the economics to be in the right place for us.”

Webster said they are even considering a four-cabin design for the aircraft that would fly these routes. That means first class, business class, premium economy and coach class would be featured on the aircraft. These aircraft could even feature a cargo-hold converted to a large crew-rest area.

Qantas 787-9 business class cabin.
Qantas 787-9 business class cabin.

New York and London are serious destinations for Qantas, but it’s also considering flights from Sydney to Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Paris as contenders for the new long-range missions.

Air New Zealand will be replacing its fleet of eight Boeing 777-200s in 2022 and is considering similar ultra-long-range routes like between Auckland and New York. It could benefit from the Qantas’ Project Sunrise aircraft, and its CEO said it will take pitches from aircraft manufacturers later this year.

H/T: Bloomberg

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