Some rumors you just want to be true, and this is absolutely one of them. While many love Sydney, I think Melbourne is one of the greatest cities on earth, and I’d love any opportunity to get there faster from Europe. Qantas has teased “Project Sunrise” ultra-long haul flights, but at this point it’s just that.

However, there’s a rumor floating around in British Airways world of a potential Melbourne, Australia service return, complementing their one stop London-Singapore-Sydney flights. It’s nothing more than a rumor at this point, but there’s actually solid logic and good sourcing behind why it may well be true. One can only hope…

OANS – On Board Airport Navigation System

British Airways has been tight lipped about new destinations for the Airbus A350 and other fleet deployments, but one group has always had an inside track – pilots.

Before a route is launched, the airline must purchase on board digital documents which pilots use for situational awareness on the ground, called the on-board airport navigation system (OANS), and like many things in the modern world, each airport must be purchased separately!

These are basically an extreme version of Google Maps for pilots of each airfield.

They don’t come cheap, airlines only buy what they need and these documents are precisely how pilots figured out the Airbus A350-1000 would be flying to Boston and Austin later in the year, well before any official announcement or notification.

According to multiple BA pilots with first hand knowledge, Melbourne is now a listed destination in the on board digital airport navigation system. Again, every other airport available in this important flight system is an actual British Airways A350 destination, or will soon be, with service announced.

At the very least, this would indicate that the Airbus A350-1000 is being considered for a return of British Airways service to Melbourne, Australia.

What’s unknown is whether the potential flight would be served as a new one hop, a la the current Singapore-Sydney Boeing 777 flight, or whether it might have longer range ambitions via a new set-up, which would mean a start date much further afield. Could they out sunrise, project sunrise?

New A350 deliveries could offer slightly amended spaces better suited for ultra long haul flights, going with a more premium heavy configuration the way Singapore Air has made the A350-900ULR work for New York-Singapore, with business and premium, sans economy.

Could there be a larger Club suite cabin? That would certainly make economic sense, and Qantas already proved the concept with London-Perth.

Again, this is entirely a rumor, but airlines don’t typically buy access to airfields they don’t have on their planned route-map. This is an Airbus specific system, and airports are only loaded onto plane types which will actually fly the route.

The last time a rumor of this information tangent was floated, it was about A350-1000 service to Boston and Austin, and those both rang true in short order. Only time will tell, but to reiterate, airlines don’t buy these functions unless they plan to use them.

Obviously, this isn’t exactly an ideal time to launch a new service, but a one stop which could help ferry passengers could make sense.

An ultra long haul direct London-Melbourne flight is something the A350 is technically capable of completing with some modification, but present configurations only offer 16,100 km range (10,000 miles), which is 500 miles short of London-Melbourne.

Qantas made headlines earlier this year after a successful (longer) London-Sydney test flight with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, albeit with hardly any passengers or significant weight to reduce range. The airline then surprised the world by selecting the Airbus A350-1000, the plane British Airways would use, for any future flights.

I, for one, would love it if British Airways pulled a rabbit out of the hat and found a way to make an Airbus A350-1000 configuration work for ultra-long haul. A one stop to Melbourne via Asia would be somewhat redundant, but a fast track on direct service to a key Australian destination – and one with lots of banking ; ) – would be a game changer, and perhaps quite a lucrative one…

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