Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is beaming.
His airline’s new London to Perth route is performing splendidly. Since starting the route in March, load factors have exceeded 90%, including a 94% load factor in business class. But that’s just step one.
Qantas plans nonstop service between Sydney and London by 2022. The 10,573-mile, 20-hour flight will be a longhaul like no other longhaul, easily becoming the world’s longest flight. Qantas also wants to serve New York nonstop (9,950 miles) as well as Rio De Janeiro (8,414 miles) and Paris (10,527 miles). This goal, dubbed “Project Sunrise”, represents a new frontier in longhaul travel. But finding the right aircraft is vital.
You might recall that Qantas has floated the idea of converting some cargo space into bedrooms/berths aboard its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This is because the aircraft is unable to complete ultra-longhaul flights with both a full passenger and full cargo load.
> Read More: “Cargo Class” Has Great Potential
Qantas has issued a challenge: it wants to carry 300 passengers plus cargo without a technical stop. The prime candidates are new A350-1000s or 777-8s which could theoretically offer additional seating capacity plus the ability to carry a full load of passengers and cargo.
Aircraft makers have until next year to submit formal proposals. With fuel tank customization, both aircraft could meet this goal.
I do not doubt for a moment that both Airbus and Boeing will find a way to meet Qantas’ need. Then the question becomes would you take a 20-hour flight? I would…even in economy class if I had to…but I’m not an average traveler. Then again, based upon the strong load factors on the new London – Perth route, I doubt Qantas will have trouble filling up the new flights.