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Exercise areas, sleeping berths – Qantas considering “out there ideas” for Project Sunrise

written by Gerard Frawley | March 28, 2018
The first QF9 nonstop flight between Australia and the UK taxis to the gate at London Heathrow on Sunday. Nonstop flights from Sydney and Melbourne could follow in 2022, the airline says. (Qantas)

Project Sunrise, Qantas’s ambitious plan to introduce a “super long-haul” aircraft into service from 2022 capable of flying nonstop from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, could provide an opportunity for new thinking in passenger amenity, the airline says.

Among the ideas being considered for the new aircraft type, either the Boeing 777X or Airbus A350ULR, include exercise areas and sleeping berths, Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce told an Aviation Club of the UK luncheon in London on Tuesday.

“We are also looking at do we need and should we have four classes? Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft?” Joyce said of the cabin configuration of the Project Sunrise aircraft, which would be required to operate flights of more than 20 hours from Sydney and Melbourne to London (Sydney and Melbourne to New York would be about 18 hours).

Singapore Airlines' first Airbus A350-900ULR. (Airbus)
The first Airbus A350-900ULR. (Airbus)

“Could some of the freight areas that we may not be able to use be used as an exercise area? Could they be used for berths for people to sleep in? What are the out there ideas that could apply to this and really change air travel for the future. And nothing, nothing is off the table.”

Joyce said Qantas is continuing to work with both Airbus and Boeing on defining aircraft payload-range performance.

“It is also about getting an aircraft that not only can do Sydney to London, but at the same time the same aircraft is capable of being redirected to Sydney to Hong Kong or Sydney-Singapore. It can’t be too heavy, it can’t be specialised too much so that it’s not usable elsewhere [on the network]. That’s a big challenge.”

A Qantas slide detailing its Project Sunrise ambitions. (Qantas)

Joyce was in London having flown there on the first Qantas nonstop flight from Perth, which touched down on Sunday morning, operated by the Boeing 787-9. That flight is the second longest regularly scheduled passenger flight in the world, with a flight time of a little over 17 hours.

The challenge for the much longer New York and London nonstop flights, Joyce said, was “to do it with a full passenger load, a full freight load and their bags”.

“We have all this computing power now, all this technology, and it’s working with both Airbus and Boeing to tweak the aircraft if necessary to get them to that range, and we’re getting closer all the time,” he said.

Qantas, Joyce said, is “a company that isn’t resting on its laurels. It is a company that is saying we can do more in this space and we have a vision to stretch it even further”.

“And we have we believe one last frontier in aviation. That last frontier is getting from the east coast of Australia to London. And I think that we have it in sight that by 2022 I believe we will have broken and pushed though that last frontier.”

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Comments (22)

  • Wayne GALLOWAY


    The concept of freight container shaped pods for sleeping berths with access from the passenger deck may not be as ludicrous as it sounds, could be easily loaded/unloaded as required, would enable aircraft to rotate between super-long haul and medium/long haul missions with no changes to actual aircraft configuration, other than locking the access between passenger deck and freight deck. Challenge would be around ensuring the climate in the hold remains suitable for passengers, may need to be a bit more than an extra heavy doona.

  • MikeofPerth


    Is it really the last frontier? I’m sure a few people in Air New Zealand are pondering now if Auckland to London non stop is possible in future. If that’s possible one day then you may as well throw in Perth to New York. I’m sure there are other possible city pairs that are further apart that Melbourne and London. Although I’m sure these won’t be possible until much later than 2022.
    We are only limited by our imaginations. Technology will continue to advance.

  • Russell


    Project sunrise may be grandstanding, it may be seeking a ‘halo’ product offering, and it may also be genius, but its sure exciting! I have wondered for years why the cargo hold hasn’t been explored as an additional passenger space – whether it be for communal lounge space, budget sleeping quarters, business/First class suites, larger bathrooms with showers or even exercise space as Joyce has touted. I know that there have been design ideas put out there by cabin interior companies in the past – does anyone have a solid reason why this cavernous space (comparable to the size of the passenger space above it!) hasn’t been explored for passenger use in the past???
    I know that the A340 has crew quarters in the below cargo space, and the A380 uses a space under the cockpit for pilot sleeping quarters, but I’m unaware of any space other than that above the main cabin being utlilised for purposes other than storage,

  • Tutu


    Amenities in the cargo hold has been done before. PSAl1011s had lounges down there and various other aircraft from that era offered it. Airbus had an option on the a330/340 to have pods down there. Some Lufthansa a340s have toilets down there. I’m pretty sure some airbus also have crew rest areas down there. On some Soviet aircraft you enter on the cargo level where there are some rooms for you to store luggage then you go up internal stairs to the seats.

  • Truman


    I think the problem for sleeping berth under the floor in the cargo compartment is the certification to egress.

  • Seds09


    Another great article by Gerard Frawley, as informative and well researched as ever. I’ll be fascinated to see what QANTAS finally come up with.

  • Deepspa


    Hummm! This sounds a bit like a Ryan Air style publicity beat up.

  • Archie


    Yeah right, this is up there with all the fanciful crap that was dreamt up for A380s.

  • Rodney Marinkovic


    New “Sunrise” is part of Sentenial celebration of Qantas. So natural to Qantas. Allways rising to the future. ??✨????

  • Scott


    Look at the current ULR config in place today, none offer this, infact some airlines don’t even have a J class inflight bar for pax to take a break from their seat on 17hr flights. Running tracks and ‘exercise areas’ cargo hold use seems a complete impractical ambition, particularly when the aircraft in question apparently needs to be able to do HK and Asia as well with the high freight runs that come on those routes.

  • PAUL


    Why not turn the part of the cargo bar into a nightclub drinks music & dancing a good way to exercise & get the circulation going. No more DVT…

  • Rod Pickin


    In the meantime the QF A380’s will undergo cabin refurbishment which is new speak for 11 abreast down the back. One would have thought it great to attract new ECY customers, not frighten them away with even less room.

  • Ben


    Sure, along with the crazy ideas Airbus was telling us we’d have with the A380… good thing I didn’t hold my breath!

  • Michael


    Airlines should consider a new cabin class bunk bed rooms (double to trible bunk beds) like in a submarine located below the passenger seat floor (in the cargo space area. As the trip will be 17 hours journey, passengers can hire bunk beds on a hourly time slots. They can choose and booked for bunk beds on two to four hours stays on the flight. Passengers can take turns to hire the same bunk beds on the same trip. Access to the lower floor can be location at the rear end. Similar to long range truck drivers with little rest cabin beds behind the seat. The airlines can make additional income by offering this new type of rest services on A 350 ULR models. Hope my message will be passed on to the technical section heads to be consider for further research

  • AlanH


    I can’t see the airlines, esp Qantas, giving up their money-making cargo holds to exercise treadmills and bunk beds! Tell ’em they’re dreamin’!

  • Craigy


    @ Rod Pickin When did Qantas announce that the A380 would be reconfigured with 11 across in economy? Please provide a reference for your comment

  • Rod Pickin


    @ Craigy, The only reference currently available is that a “refurbishment” program for the A380 is a works in progress. I am sure that you would be aware that company announcements do not always tell the complete story. It is in this light therefore that I opined that some or all of the QF A380 ECY cabin will be refurbished to accommodate 11 abreast seating, I would even go further to to say that the ECY pricing may even be adjusted to suit the change. There has to be a return for the company for the costs of any refurbishment program. We will see.

  • James


    @ Rod Pickin
    So you’re assuming that will happen?

  • Kel


    QANTAS has announced seating numbers for all classes on A380.
    First class 14 seats no change.
    Business increase from 64 to 70 seats. Same space rearranged. Now 6 seats wide. Future 1-2-1 by two offset rows equals 8 seats wide but seating space lost at front and back of both cabins due to offset.
    Premium Economy increase 35 to 60 seats. Economy on upper deck being removed. As seat is wider, storage space against wall probably removed.
    Economy cut by 30. Economy on upper deck removed with main deck seating remaining the same.

  • Have a think


    Project Sunrise is a joke and the majority of people are being sucked in by Qantas marketing this as an advantage to the passenger. This is only an advantage to the passenger if you are on a short trip and are heavily time dependent or if you can afford to fly business or first class. As an economy passenger, 20 hours on any aircraft is a joke. You get tired, restless and ridiculously pissed off with people in your normal personal space for that long. I think most people would agree in that half the have of travel is the journey. I love a stopover and you don’t need long on the ground to feel rejuvenated.
    QANTAS is ripping everyone off with these flights. Squeezing pax in, lifting airfares as if it is an advantage. You save what? 4-6 hours (descent, stopover, climb taken into account) on a 2-4 week holiday? who cares!
    Qantas then save money compared to their normal stopover in Singapore or Dubai (less track miles, no second climb to cruise out of the stopover city, no ATC charges at a stopover location AND while using one of the world’s most fuel efficient aircraft!
    Take all of this into account and QANTAS SHOULD be using this advantage to save you money, not charge you more.
    The ONLY advantage for ANYONE out of this whole Project Sunrise is Qantas being able to do something their competitors cannot due to Freedom of the Air rules.
    Everyone (mainly people flying economy) should do themselves a favour long-term by continuing to fly carriers that buy these new aircraft earlier than Qantas do, offer a good stopover with modern airports, all while providing a cheaper price. BOYCOTT these crappy economy seats and make Qantas rethink their game to a real game changer…

  • Bob Grimstead


    They must have SHOWERS!
    I say this as a veteran ultra long-haul flyer.

  • ESLowe


    ..again, I have to observe that nobody (airlines) is anticipating the affect of the Mach 2,2 Boom jet on passenger travel. I’m talking about the concentration of big twin jets that will not be so profitable once Business Class (and the handful of First Class) passengers plant their bums on fast jet seats. At 8x the revenue ofTourist Class fares .the 787s 777s and a350s simply cannnot carry the numbers of low ticket paying passengers needed to return a satisfactory profit…..these latest whiz-bang jets are really noting more than h-tech 707. in the thing planes used to offer the rich and powerful —speed.

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