Qantas appears to be gearing up for a 2019 order for new ultra-long-range aircraft that will enable it to begin offering non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York starting in 2022.
“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 Group chief executive, Alan Joyce, according to Flightglobal.
As for the capacity of the aircraft, Qantas International chief executive Alison Webster has said the carrier is looking to order an aircraft capable of carrying more than 300 passengers in order for the economics of the route to be viable.
“We’re also looking at a four-cabin configuration design, but as I said these are all still a work in progress,” Flightglobal reports Webster as having said.
Currently, no aircraft is capable of making these journeys in an economically viable manner. A non-stop flight from Sydney to London would take more than 20 hours, more than three hours longer than the world’s current longest commercial flight between Doha and Auckland, operated by Qatar Airways.
However, both Airbus and Boeing have begun looking into developing an aircraft capable of making the flights.
Boeing is believed to be working on making its upcoming B777X capable of flying the ultra-long-haul route.
Meanwhile, Airbus is expected to create an optimised version of its Airbus A350-900ULR aircraft – the first of which will enable launch customer Singapore Airlines to relaunch its non-stop service between Singapore and New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport on October 11 this year. The 18-hour-45-minute journey will see the Singaporean carrier reclaim the crown for world’s longest commercial flight.
The new ultra-long-haul initiative from Qantas, known as Project Sunrise, will put Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, New York or Paris in range of Australia’s east coast, Bloomberg reports.
Speculation regarding a non-stop route between Perth and Paris had begun to emerge earlier this year, following the success of the airline’s Perth-London non-stop route using its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
However, Qantas’s recent announcement of a codesharing agreement with Air France appears to have dampened this possibility.
Meanwhile in related news, Qantas has dropped its plans for a seasonal service between Perth and Johannesburg, citing a dispute with Perth Airport regarding terminal use, Perth Now reports.
CEO Joyce said that all future international expansion from Perth, such as non-stop flights to Paris and Frankfurt, would be placed on hold until Qantas was able to resolve the issue.