a plane on the tarmac

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…

a row of colorful beach hutsOANS – 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.

a plane on the tarmac

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…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s about time BA got ahead of the curve instead of playing catch up. I really hope they do this as I have a son there and to Sydney and then on is a pain. All that time in an A350, yes!!

  2. BA can not do the non-stop, it is above EASA limits of crew operating time (18 hours including 1 hour pre-flight). With the UK supposedly leaving EASA, there may be a window, but all industry speak at the minute is for regulatory alignment…. so I guess we will see.

    1. Great point! I will be fascinated to watch that end of year transition. I’d imagine there would be plenty of internal debate with BALPA etc as well.

  3. I personally think this could see the return of one other Asian city as well, that this flight may connect through.

    Possibly Jakarta, a new Chinese mainland city, Taiwan or Manila…. maybe? Kill two birds with one stone.

    Just a though

  4. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that the A350 is replacing the 77W to SYD with MEL one of the diversion alternates ?

    1. Not at all beyond possibility, and could be a likely candidate if this proves to be a rumor, and nothing but. I do think many things are coming together though, ie the Qatar/BA joint venture to Oz, which could make this ring true.

  5. BA pilots elsewhere say there is no truth in this. The BA 380, for example, has charts for lots of airports that aren’t, and never will be, destinations loaded on the plane. MEL being loaded as a diversion airport for SYD is more likely.

    Good job on getting A.net v excited though. 🙂

    1. Haha funny, because this came from BA pilots. And even if MEL is a diversion airport, this is an A350 specific load, which means A350 would be moving to SIN-SYD.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *