Qantas changes the game with departure of first nonstop Australia-UK passenger flight

written by australianaviation.com.au | March 25, 2018

787-9 VH-ZND departs Perth this evening headed for London Heathrow. (Brendan Scott)

History was achieved on Saturday, March 24, 2018, when Qantas flight QF9 took off from Perth Airport bound for London Heathrow.
Some 71 years after the Kangaroo Route was first established, the continents of Australia and Europe are now linked by regularly scheduled nonstop passenger flights.
QF9, operated by Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND, was carrying about 200 passengers, including Qantas executives, politicians, representatives from the media, Qantas suppliers and aviation enthusiasts.
https://www.facebook.com/Qantas/videos/10155518832317686/
“It is a historic day for Western Australia, a historic day for aviation, a historic day for Qantas,” Joyce told media inside Qantas’s international transit lounge at Perth Airport’s Terminal 4 on Saturday, some three hours before QF9’s departure.
“From today it will be the first nonstop link between Australia and Europe that has ever occurred in aviation.
“We’re so excited.”
(Keith Anderson)

The Perth-London Heathrow route represents something of a beachhead for Qantas, with the success of the flight potentially spawning new nonstop services from Perth – Qantas’s new western hub – to other points on the European continent.
While the economics of such an ultra long-haul flight are challenging, Joyce said the response to the new route has been outstanding.
He said forward bookings showed 60 per cent of the traffic on the flight was going from London to Perth, with 40 per cent connecting onwards to the rest of the Qantas network.
“That’s important for the economics,” Joyce said.
And of the traffic that was headed to Perth, Joyce said 15 per cent of travellers were staying for three days or more.
“This is before we really get in to promoting the service, getting more attention on top of it. So this is fantastic already for tourism and I think it can only grow,” Joyce explained.
The original kangaroo route was operated by Lockheed Constellations. (Qantas)

The first incarnation of the Kangaroo Route that linked Sydney with London was operated by a Lockheed Constellation that carried 29 passengers and involved seven stops over four days of travel. A ticket cost 525 pounds – or $35,000 in today’s money.
Today, the Perth-London Heathrow flight is scheduled to cover the 7,829nm journey in 17 hours and 20 minutes. It is the second-longest passenger flight in the world measured by distance. A return ticket is priced from about $1,300.
Qantas is configuring its 787-9s, which are powered by two GEnx-1B engines, in a ‘premium-heavy’ configuration seating 236 passengers, with 42 seats in business class in a 1-2-1 configuration offering direct aisle access for every passenger, 28 in premium economy laid out 2-3-2 across and 166 in economy in a 3-3-3 layout with 32in seat pitch.
Some 30 per cent of seats on the 787-9 are in business or premium economy, the highest percentage of any of aircraft type in the Qantas fleet.
Alan Joyce checks in for QF9.

Such a configuration reflects both the business-heavy nature of the routes the airline will operate the aircraft on, but it is also optimised to provide the payload-range performance necessary for ultra long-haul routes like Perth-London, which will be the longest route yet operated by the 787.
And it would appear that premium mix is matching the demand for seats at the pointy end.
“It has more business class and premium economy seats than we’ve ever put on an aircraft and we are filling them,” Joyce said.
“The forward bookings in those are over 90 per cent and are very strong, so the economics of this route is looking very strong from day one.
“In fact, we think we will make money from the first day, which I have not actually seen in a new international route for a long time. So the economic is starting out immensely strong.”
The airline has also engaged experts from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, industrial designer David Caon and its own consulting chef Neil Perry to introduce a number of cabin and lounge features designed to help cope with the effects of jetlag.
Inside the new Qantas Perth transit lounge. (Qantas)

Joyce said the 787-9 product was the “best service that Qantas has ever put in the air”.
“We are so looking forward to landing in London [after] 17 hours and 20 minutes on a game-changing aviation flight,” Joyce said.
QF9 is scheduled to land at London Heathrow at 0510 local time on Sunday March 25 2018.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce with the QF9 operating crew, Captain Lisa Norman, Captain Jeff Foote, First Officer Dave Summergreene, and Second Officer Troy Lane, before departure. (Qantas)

The QF9 cabin crew poses for photos prior to departure. (Victor Pody)

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20 Comments

  • 787 fan

    says:

    Its all marketing hype – unless you live in Perth this flight is not non stop

  • lyl

    says:

    What are all those white cylinders on the floor in the Perth lounge? I can’t work out whether it’s an abundance of trash cans, foot rests and they’re supposed to stools? Or very low cocktail tables?

  • Victor ATEM

    says:

    What a beautiful take-off. A promising sign for a successful route.

  • Richard

    says:

    I have been watching this historic flight with interest on Flightradar24, and feeling for the passengers in 3+3+3 Economy – will be interesting to see if Qantas has the right Business ; Premium Economy : Economy ratio for 17+ hours.
    However, for a while there were actually two QF9 flights in the air: 787-9 MEL-PER-LHR and the A380 service to LHR via Dubai.
    Is it allowable to have two flights using the same flight number at the same time?

  • Terry Adler

    says:

    Go Qantas, Love the new service, love the pride, attention to detail and new planes. Just wish Qantas flew more aircraft like this on it’s long legs and less of the 25 year old 747’s.

  • Peter Gabler

    says:

    “The original kangaroo route was operated by Lockheed Constellations. (Qantas)” — your quote
    “The first incarnation of the Kangaroo Route that linked Sydney with London was operated by a Lockheed Constellation that carried 29 passengers and involved seven stops over four days of travel…………” — your quote
    That’s publishing untrue rubbish!
    Try the IMPERIAL AIRWAYS “Empire Flying-Boat” for a start.
    Should do your research before you receive, and make a bold false statement — typical Joyce!

  • freedom flyer

    says:

    Well done QF. Wish I was on the flight, however I have plans to do it later. A magnificent achievement. Another first and by Qantas. Aviation has a long history of achievements and Qantas have been instrumental in many of them. Qantas receive a lot of bashing on social forums, and while Qantas may not be the best out there for some people, Qantas certainly deserve their place among the best in the sky. I flew just the other day on a domestic service, and while I enjoyed Business Class, I paid for in full, the flight and service was as good as you will ever get, anywhere. As a regular flyer, it was one of the best flights I have ever had, well done Qantas and congratulations on the new route MEL PER LHR..

  • Craigy

    says:

    This route is a huge experiment for Qantas as it learns the intricacies of ultra long haul. The lessons learned will be applied to the services envisaged under project Sunrise. Interesting to see how Airbus and Boeing propose to meet the Qantas’ specs.

  • Bryan

    says:

    @ 787 fan
    How is this marketing hype?
    This new route is marketed as Perth-London non-stop.

  • Doug bell

    says:

    I wish Qantas would treat the economy class with some respect and go with 34 inch seat pitch

  • Doug bell

    says:

    What has happened to the London based 380 crew that used to do the London/Dubai return?

  • Arkair

    says:

    236 seats but only about 200 passengers in flight! Clearly they reduced payload to ensure flight could be completed. Would like to see how that can continueas operating with 40 empty seats per flight can hardly be good for profit margins

  • David

    says:

    Was this flight ZND’s first international flight? (Other than the delivery flight)

  • Patrickk

    says:

    Arkair the Dallas A380 flight often has 100 empty seats flying into the wind. This would have been modelled and there won’t be empty seats coming back from London. I am sure they will have 80% load factors even taking into account 20% load penalty for the against the wind sectors.

  • David Grant

    says:

    It says I can buy a return ticket “priced from about $1,300”. Where can I sign up?

  • AlanH

    says:

    This will be a great fillip for Perth tourism! As if it needed any!

  • AlanH

    says:

    My only wake-up call to this is that while some pax will be Perth residents who will appreciate the non-stop flight to London, most Aussies will be coming from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin, Canberra and all ports in between, requiring another spoke to the wheel to get to the Perth hub and for regional residents, probably an additional trip (a la Rex or QantasLink) as well. That cost needs to be factored into the value of the non-stop Perth-London trip, when other airlines can do a one-stop flight from one of the majors for a lost less. Singapore and Qatar are now flying out of Canberra, for example.

  • Russell

    says:

    Say what you like about the economics of this route or its potential to ‘revolutionise’ travel to Europe from Australia, but it certainly provides a stark picture of aviation development in the last century. To reduce travel time from 4 days and seven stops to a direct 17 hour flight is incredible, not to mention how much more accessible a $1300 price tag is compared to $35,000! QANTAS has been at or near the cutting edge of this development, and is once again with project sunrise – definitely keeping things interesting for us Aussie aviation buffs!

  • Desert Storm

    says:

    Wasn’t there also a stop off at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands with a Super Connie back in the day?

  • franz chong

    says:

    This is ground breaking and for the first time in ages brings Adelaide passengers with a one stop through to London option since they for South Australia dropped the Singapore flights in 2013 that fed into the old QF9/QF31 of which the latter is now the QF1..I believe it will do well.I am not one of those who needs the Asian stopovers or even wants to spend time other than transit in Doha or Dubai going to or from London so this is perfect for me.

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