Sunset for ‘Project Sunrise’

5 May 2020 by Alex McWhirter
Qantas A350-1000 rendering (for Project Sunrise)

In a major about turn, Qantas today announced it had indefinitely postponed Project Sunrise because of the current aviation environment.

As readers will recall the idea behind Project Sunrise was for Qantas to operate ultra long-haul (ULH) non-stops linking Sydney and Melbourne with Europe (typically London, Paris and Frankfurt) and New York.

Qantas already operates Perth-London non-stop and Project Sunrise would have improved on its current offering of this one ULH flight.

Flight review: Qantas B787-9 business class (QF10)

Today’s news will have come as a disappointment not just to the airline but to its staff too.

I say this because airlines operate ULH flights to gain valuable PR and kudos with the travelling public as Qantas and Singapore Airlines (SIA) have both managed to do.

Airbus will also be disappointed.  It beat Boeing (which proposed the B787) for the contract to devise an aircraft capable of flying 20 hours non-stop – the world’s longest (non-stop) flight.

Airbus’ staff had been working hard on designing a new ULH A350 variant for which Qantas was expected to order a fleet of 12.

Quoted in the Financial Times. Peter Harbison, chairman and emeritus of aviation consultancy CAPA said, “Where a little token separation might work for an hour’s domestic flight, the risks in sitting in the same aircraft for these ULH commercial flights would require strenuous health safety precautions that we haven’t yet worked out.”

Qantas’ decision raises a question mark over the future of SIA’s ULH flights between Singapore, Los Angeles and New York.  These typically take 18 or 19 hours in the case of New York.  And of course Qantas’ own ULH service linking Perth with London taking 16 or 17 hours.

(Note: ULH flight times vary depending on wind direction, routing, season of year).

Flight review: Singapore Airlines A350-900 Ultra Long Range (ULR) – flight SQ21

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