Qantas’s 236-seat configured Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will be capable of flying all of the ultra long-haul routes that have been publicly mooted in recent times, chief executive Alan Joyce says.
The seating configuration of Qantas’s 787-9s, which are due to arrive from October 2017, was revealed in front of about 1,000 invited guests, staff and media at Sydney Airport on Thursday. And with about 30 per cent of their seats dedicated to business and premium economy, the aircraft are more weighted towards premium passengers than any other widebody aircraft in the Qantas fleet.
Joyce said the Qantas 787s have been configured to be able to fly the likes of Perth-London Heathrow (7,829nm), Melbourne-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,814nm) and Sydney-Chicago (8,022nm).
“So we’ve modelled all of the routes, we know what the loads can be on it, we know the restrictions in parts of the year,” Joyce told reporters at Qantas’s Hangar 96 after the official unveiling of the new seats and new Flying Kangaroo logo.
“As you can imagine sometimes the winds are heavy and like on our Sydney-Dallas service parts of the year we can’t take a full load. That’s fine because the economics superbly work for the entire year. The lower seat configuration does help us with some of the routes that we are looking at.”
Boeing lists the 787-9 as having a range of 7,635nm when carrying 290 passengers in a two-class configuration, while a Qantas fact sheet released on Thursday promotes a range of 14,400km – or 7,775nm.
Currently, the longest route operated by a 787-9 is United’s 7,339nm San Francisco-Singapore nonstop service, which launched in June. United configures its 787-9s with 48 business, 88 extra legroom economy and 116 standard economy seats for a total of 252. Singapore Airlines uses Airbus A350-900s on the same route.
One route that has many genuinely excited is the possibility of linking Australia and Europe with a nonstop service between Perth and London.
Joyce said discussions with Perth Airport, the West Australian government and Canberra were ongoing, adding that he was hopeful of a positive outcome on what would be a “game-changing” new service.
“We hope to get to conclusions on that soon,” he said.
“We’re still in the midst of those discussions and there is always to-ing and fro-ing on those commercial discussions but it’s such a great opportunity for Western Australia. It would be a shame if we can’t close a commercial deal and WA and Australia lose out on this opportunity. I don’t believe that will happen but we continue with the commercial discussions,” Joyce said.
“We wouldn’t be talking to Perth Airport, which we are at the moment, about the possibility of doing the Perth-London, or the other airports about the opportunities that are there with this aircraft if we didn’t fundamentally believe we can do it.”
The fact that 30 per cent of seats – and roughly half the cabin space – has been given over to business and premium economy highlights that these ultra long-haul routes would be in demand by business and premium leisure travellers.
“We think on the routes that we are looking at that, the premium end is going to be sought after – direct flights as we’ve said on some of these routes have a lot of premium traffic and Qantas will be offering a unique proposition,” Joyce said.
“Therefore we think it is going to be very heavily patronised by business and premium economy customers. That’s what makes the economics of these services work.
“A lot of airlines have over 300 seats on the same aircraft. Some of the low-cost carriers have over 375 seats on this aircraft. It shows you that we are designing it with comfort in mind for long-haul flights like Perth to London, Sydney to Chicago, Melbourne to Dallas. We want to make sure that people have comfort appropriate for long-haul travel.”