As Australian tourism officials have always admitted, one of the deterrents to travel to the country is its exceedingly long distance from everywhere else. As anyone who has made the long trek knows, though, there are many reasons-scenic, culinary, cultural- to visit the land down under. With its 10,000 mile Project Sunrise flights in 2019 from New York and London to Sydney, Qantas personnel researched the optimum ways for passengers to comfortably travel on proposed 19+ hour nonstops from those cities as well as other destinations around the globe, cutting at least four hours off present flight time. Those flights are now scheduled to start in 2025 with new cabins coming onboard as part of the plan.
“Flying non-stop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said at the same of Project Sunrise’s launch. (The project was named for the airline’s double sunrise flights across the Indian Ocean during World War II which remained airborne long enough to observe two sunrises.) “For customers, the key will be minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during their down time on these flights.” Pilots wore brainwave monitors on the flights to track melatonin levels; a limited number of passengers in order to minimize weight comprised of Qantas employees, frequent flyers and journalists wore monitoring devices to study how their “health, wellbeing and body clock” were impacted by a set of variables including lighting, food and drink, movement, sleep patterns and inflight entertainment. Thousands of data points were accumulated which will be put into action for the new flights.
Originally planned to begin in 2022 or 2023, the regularly scheduled flights were delayed like so much else around the world by the onset of the pandemic, but Joyce signaled that the plan would move forward when the airline placed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s in May to operate the ultra-long haul flights. The proposed passenger load is 238 across four classes, lower for that type of aircraft than others currently in operation with 40% dedicated to premium seating. Six new First Class Suites will contain a separate bed, recliner lounge chair, personal wardrobe and privacy door; Business Class will feature 52 next generation suites all with direct aisle access. 40 Premium Economy seats will have an expanded seat pitch of 40 inches with 140 Economy seats pitched at 33 inches. There will also be a dedicated Wellness Zone designed for movement, stretching and hydration in the center of the plane with a self serve snack station and digital displays with stretching and movement recommendations.
Apart from its promise that passengers will have a more comfortable flight, Joyce affirms that another aspect of Qantas’s plans will remain intact: all emissions will be offset so that the flights will be carbon neutral.