Tuesday 11 December 2018

Qantas promises 20-hour direct flights from London to Sydney by 2022 – but where's next?

'Project Sunrise' flight would beat even the 8,991-mile slog between London and Perth, the airline says...

A Qantas A380 flies over Sydney, Australia
A Qantas A380 flies over Sydney, Australia
A qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Annabel Fenwick Elliott

It's been a long time coming, but the world's first direct flight from London to Sydney finally has a launch date: 2022

More more details of how the 20-hour flight will operate have surfaced, too.

Qantas last year challenged both Boeing and Airbus to design an aircraft suitable for the ultra long-haul journey, dubbed Project Sunrise, and the Australian airline's CEO Alan Joyce says they've managed to do so.

"We're now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it," he said in a statement.

The 10,573-mile flight would exceed the distance flown on its longest current non-stop route, London to Perth - an 8,991-mile slog which takes around 17 hours.

The longest direct flight in the world, incidentally, is currently Qatar's 9,032-mile route between Doha and Auckland, but as of October 2018, Singapore Airlines will beat that with the introduction of its Singapore to Newark (New Jersey) route, clocking in at 9,537 miles.

Both fall short of the proposed Qantas London-Sydney service.

Qantas is weighing up two models - the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 777X - for the job of carrying 300 passengers half way across the planet.

Dreamliner-Quokka-aircraft-5.jpg
A qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Either would be customised to meet the demands of such a lengthy flight, with Joyce stating: “We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box. Would you have the space used for other activities - exercise, bar, creche, sleeping areas and berths? Boeing and Airbus have been actually quite creative in coming up with ideas.”

Project Sunrise has ambitions to make most of the world reachable non-stop from anywhere else and has been heralded by Joyce as "the last frontier in global aviation."

Despite risks that passengers would find these mammoth flights too unbearable to prove commercially viable, Qantas' Heathrow to Perth route, which launched in March, has proven a resounding success, with a spokesperson for the Australian carrier saying last month that it was "definitely exceeding our expectations.”

This opens up a wealth of other viable opportunities.

Where else could we fly direct from the UK?

Travel New York.jpg
Empire State Building, New York

Qantas has already mentioned New York, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro as far-flung destinations that will would be reachable in one hop from the east coast of Australia as part of Project Sunrise.

From London, in terms of mileage, that would make it possible to fly to Melbourne direct, and the islands of Fiji; as well as, in the opposite direction, Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina, where cruises depart for Antarctica.

It would also be a doddle - should the non-stop model prove popular - to establish direct flights from London to popular destinations like Bali, which while already possible to reach without a layover, don't currently operate.

In the future, perhaps even further afield. London to Auckland in New Zealand, at distance of 11,404 miles, is about as far away as you can get.

The world’s longest commercial flights

  1. Singapore-Newark, Singapore Airlines, 9,537 miles (launching October 2018)
  2. Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 9,032 miles
  3. London-Perth, Qantas, 9,010 miles
  4. Dubai-Auckland, Emirates, 8,824 miles
  5. Los Angeles-Singapore, United Airlines, 8,770 miles
  6. Houston-Sydney, United Airlines, 8,596 miles
  7. Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 8,578 miles
  8. Manila-New York, Philippine Airlines, 8,519 miles
  9. Doha-Sao Paulo, Qatar Airways, 8,498 miles
  10. San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 8,446 miles

What's the history behind Project Sunrise?

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Sydney Opera House. Getty Images/Flickr RM

The flights are so-named as a nod to the famed 'Double Sunrise' services flown by the Australian carrier across the Indian Ocean during the Second World War, when passengers would witness two dawns from the cabin. Joyce has described his airline’s ambitions as “the antidote to the tyranny of distance”.

He has also stated of the project: “The biggest challenge is not just to fly the distance. We have aircraft that can do that already. The challenge is flying the distance with a full load of passengers, their luggage, as well as freight. We know the Dreamliner is capable of that on a 17-hour trip. But to extend the flight to 21 hours will take some extensive research and innovative thinking.

“The aircraft we choose will be a core element of our international fleet for a long time. That’s why we want an aircraft that can give us the same operational efficiencies whether it flies Sydney to London or Sydney to Hong Kong.”

Read more:

Scientists baffled by passenger who didn't get up from his seat for entire 17-hour flight

Telegraph.co.uk

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