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Qantas seeks frequent flyer feedback about Project Sunrise

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 26, 2018


An Zodiac Aerospace mockup for lower deck zone. (Airbus)
An Zodiac Aerospace mockup for lower deck zone. (Airbus)

Qantas is seeking passenger input for the design of cabin amenities for its proposed Project Sunrise nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to London and New York.

The airline said on Tuesday it would soon survey its frequent flyers to gauge their opinions on what the airline has termed “the sky is the limit” concepts. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A stretch/exercise zone on board;
  • A communal bar, dining or self-service café zone;
  • A crèche;
  • A work and study section including work stations; and
  • Converting a number of lavatories into more spacious “change and refresh” stations. (Qantas said weight limitations would likely prevent carrying enough water for showers.)

Qantas head of customer strategy and product development Phil Capps said the airline wanted to revolutionise air travel for passengers on board the aircraft that would eventually operate these proposed ultra long-haul flights.

And Qantas’s frequent flyer members, which number about 12 million, were a key element in developing the right products for these services.


“Our frequent flyers are experts when it comes to spending time in the air so we are keen to tap in to their experience to gauge appetite for a wide variety of possible innovations,” Capps said in a statement.

“It’s still early days and the final cabins may feature some or none of the ideas we’re asking for feedback on, but we want to have the conversation with our customers to help inform our planning.

“We wanted to put all options on the table.

“What sounds unconventional today may well become tomorrow’s new norm. Some ideas are more viable than others but our strategy is to find out what the priorities are for a cross section of travellers.”

Potential routes for Qantas’s Project Sunrise. (Qantas)

Qantas floated some new thinking on passenger amenities in March, shortly after the airline commenced nonstop flights between Perth and London Heathrow with Boeing 787-9 equipment.

Speaking at an aviation club lunch in London, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said Project Sunrise was an opportunity for some “out there thinking” on what could be offered to passengers on the proposed 20-hour flights.

“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,” Joyce said.

“And nothing, nothing is off the table.”

In April, Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace announced they would partner to develop and market passenger berths designed for the cargo deck.

Concept drawings showed four different zones, comprising a conference room, lounge, kids and family area, and medical care zone.

The pair said these modules would be interchangeable with regular cargo containers and would not affect the aircraft’s cargo flow and loading systems.

Meanwhile, Qantas said it had invited global seat manufacturers to come up with concepts for next-generation economy and premium economy seats for these proposed ultra-long-haul flights.

VIDEO: A look at the lower deck modules being developed by Zodiac Aerospace, as shown on the company’s YouTube channel.

Qantas looks to place order for Project Sunrise in 2019

The two aircraft in contention to meet Qantas’s demanding Project Sunrise challenge are Airbus’s A350 platform and Boeing’s 777-X.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Sydney in early June the airline hoped to conclude the technical evaluation with Airbus and Boeing, as well as the consultation with regulators, by the end of calendar 2018.

A request for proposal (RFP) would †hen follow, with an order placed in 2019 for delivery in 2022 should the business case stack up.

For now, Qantas’s ambition is to have a high-capacity, multi-class cabin and “zones” for other in-flight activities.

“First and foremost for us, we are now looking at an aircraft configuration that gives us some flexibility and an opportunity for around an over 300-passenger seat count on the aircraft for the economics to be in the right place for us,” Qantas international chief executive Alison Webster told reporters on the sidelines of the IATA AGM.

“We are clearly still moving around through the final numbers on that because we are also looking at a four-cabin configuration of the aircraft design and again as I said these are all still works in progress.”

Boeing said in June it was very close to finalising the design work on the 777-8X, which although yet to reach firm configuration is listed on the company’s website as having a range of 8,700nm and a passenger capacity of 350-375 seats.

An artist's impression of the Boeing 777-8X. (Boeing)
An artist’s impression of the Boeing 777-8X. (Boeing)

Meanwhile, the Airbus A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) will be delivered to launch customer Singapore Airlines (SIA) later in 2018 and be deployed on the world’s longest commercial passenger service by distance from October 11 when it is used to operate nonstop between Singapore and New York Newark (8,285nm).

Airbus, which has not published seating data for the the A350-900ULR, has stated that the aircraft was capable of flying more than 20 hours and had a range of up to 9,700nm based on a “typical high premium cabin”.

Further, Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz said at the sidelines of the IATA AGM the airframer could develop a ULR variant for the larger A350-1000.

Singapore Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900ULR takes off on its maiden test flight. (Airbus)

What do Australian Aviation readers think should be included on aircraft operating ultralong-haul flights? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

(Read more about Project Sunrise in the July edition of Australian Aviation, now available for digital download at Zinio, Issuu and the Apple app store or at newsstands from June 28.)

Zodiac Aerospace’s cargo berth concept drawings.

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Comments (12)

  • Craigy


    Re Airbus statement about seat numbers. Airbus recently stated what the normal seat count for the A350-900ULR in an article on Flightglobal. In addition tot he seat count, they stated that the forward cargo hold would be unusable for ULR flights and would be inoperative.

  • Rod Pickin


    Options are the answer. Frankly I can’t see a market yet for the ECY pax direct to JFK, – maybe just about 50 seats as an option the balance would be premium. The west coast has and will continue to be a vast attraction and I feel ECY pax would prefer that option. SYD LHR direct is a totally different consideration; I am sure that Premium pax will be well catered for with lower lobe extra possibilities but the poor old ECY, well, as with the JFK options current seating would make the SIN transit/stopover most attractive on the A380 to LHR. We need to see seat dims/pitch/width, does the squab move forward when the back is reclined and of course price per seat.

    • Ian


      There are legal cases in train in the US that will, if successful, force seating redesign for long range ECY passengers. The number of deaths from DVT is mounting. The major causes include long periods of immobility in poorly designed seating, ie seating that forces lower limb blood pooling due to immobility.

  • Michael Angelico


    It’s all very well proposing bars and exercise zones, but they need to be available for cattle class pax as well as the ones at the pointy end. Nobody’s talking about that so far.

  • ESLowe


    Save your money…if the Mach 2.2 Boom Jet gets up all of you Business Class passengers will flock to that plane. if they can get to to London and New York in 8.5 hours they’d rather save time…..

  • Peter


    Did a survey about this on the weekend from one of the survey companies I’m signed up to and at the 3nd it even said it was on behalf of Qantas (and Q logos throughout). Didn’t even ask if I was a QFF of any standing- just asked whether I’d flown to one of a number of major destinations in the last 2yrs including London. One of the discussion points was about below deck sleeping bunks and they even put a price point on it (on top of any fare class) for a 5hr block…

  • Ian


    What’s the point in all this????
    Cattle class will still be cattle class…cramming as many skinny seats as they can into the thing.



    Must admit that a sound-proof play area where kids are locked up for the duration of the flight would be a mighty fine idea! Otherwise mostly just a load of rubbish is being proposed. A meeting room? Really, cannot see that being needed. As for workstations – why not just make seat back trays larger and sturdier? I am sure that the cabin crew are going to object to having to look after and clean sleeping areas during the flight!

  • Ben


    @Ian Morris – spot on.

    Nothing worse than a screaming baby on a long haul flight, strangely babies and long haul flights seem to go hand in hand. A creche is a great idea and it would be a bonus for Y class as well. Kids themselves not too bad as long as they’re well behaved and not noisy.

    I don’t dislike kids/babies. I was an 8 year old child myself when I had my first long haul flight over 30 years ago. good old 747-200 with SQ flying return SYD-SIN-DXB-ZRH. Great memories and kicked off my love of aviation that hasn’t stopped since. However one of the memories of at least one sector of those flights was a screaming baby across the aisle and a kid about my age sitting behind me and kicking my seat.

    Invariably similar experiences on every long haul flight since then.

    I’m not a QF FF, but if they were to introduce a creche, I might well become one. Especially if it’s nonstop EU/US.

  • Myles Dobinson


    All very nice for first and business classes but how about more room for economy class. 19 wide and 34 pitch.

  • Rob


    I just wish Qantas had economy seats that where so painful for tall folk like myself and some of my friends to travel in. Syd-LHR would be an agonising experience … (Or even introduce affordable upgrades like Vigin’s Economy-X). One friend will no longer fly in Qantas 737’s domestically anymore as they are so painful for him to travel in due to the lack of leg room.

  • Michael Passi


    An exercise/stretching room would be great. Plus a VR setup which can educate travelers on import things to see and avoid in the country of destination (similar to Detroit become human game structure- multiple choice endings)

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