Qantas has made their aspiration for future travel quite clear: the airline wants to fly nonstop from East Coast hubs like Melbourne and Sydney to London and New York, using futuristic aircraft. There’s just one thing: at present, there is no aircraft which could economically make the journey with more than a few handfuls of passengers on board.
While Qantas awaits final proposals from Airbus and Boeing on which aircraft would best suit these sort of ultra long haul operations, the airline just announced test flights using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to find out what passengers want, or need for journeys of this magnitude. That’s probably a great idea.
In October, November and December Qantas is re-routing a series of Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery flights from Seattle to New York and London, to do what no other commercial aircraft has done. The airline will operate the first ever non-stop flight between New York and Sydney by a commercial plane and the second ever non stop flight between London and Sydney.
Here’s where this gets cool. The flights, which Qantas claims will have their carbon emissions entirely offset, will feature just 40 total passengers, crew included, and each traveller will be equipped with wearable health tech – think Apple watch.
The aim is for Qantas, and their research partners at Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre, to study the effects of 20+ hours of continuous flight on the body. Everything from food and beverage consumption to the effects of light, meals and movement around the cabin will be tracked, with the aim of becoming an authority on best practices to minimise the “lag” passengers might experience during ultra long haul travel.
Basically, medical experts will be able to conduct real time studies to see what actually happens to the body, or what may indeed help the body in flight, and after.
While these tests are being conducted on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, it absolutely won’t be the plane that launches “Project Sunrise”, this Qantas ultra long haul project. Boeing has pitched the new 777X, while Airbus has offered an ultra long haul version of the A350. The Boeing 777X endured a setback this week, with a recall on GE9X engine parts. Qantas aims to make a decision on the aircraft it will go with for this brave new frontier by December 2019, based on economics, regulatory approval and industrial agreements.
This all leaves one question: would you prefer to fly for 19-20 hours and get to your destination non stop, or would you prefer to break it up into a 5 hour flight, followed by a 14 hour flight?
Singapore Air, which currently operates the worlds longest flight between New York And Singapore, chose to offer only premium economy and business class on their specially configured Airbus A350, so it will be very interesting to see if Qantas uses a premium only configuration, or finds a way to convince passengers to fly for 19 hours in economy!