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).
“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.”
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.”