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Qantas seeking more details from Airbus and Boeing for Project Sunrise

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 19, 2019

The Airbus A350-1000 is a candidate aircraft for the Qantas Project Sunrise evaluation. (Victor Pody)
The Airbus A350-1000 is a candidate aircraft for the Qantas Project Sunrise evaluation. (Victor Pody)

Qantas international chief executive Tino La Spina says the airline has asked Airbus and Boeing to take another look at their best-and-final offers for Project Sunrise.

Airbus has put forward its A350-1000 as the candidate aircraft for Qantas to mount nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to London, New York and other ultra long-haul destinations currently being evaluated under the Project Sunrise banner.

The airline has said previously it hoped to reach a decision on whether to proceed with the project before the end of calendar 2019, with flights slated to begin in 2023 should the business case stack up.

Meanwhile, Boeing has proposed its 777-8X platform alongside an “interim solution” with an undisclosed aircraft type. The interim solution was proposed after Boeing pushed back the development timetable for the 777-8X, meaning the aircraft would not be in service by the time Qantas wanted to launch these ultra long-haul services.

Qantas said in August that Airbus and Boeing had submitted their best and final offers, following a request for proposal (RFP) process, that covered pricing, performance guarantees and details of potential delivery streams, among other matters.


The technical evaluation showed Airbus and Boeing could offer an aircraft that would be able to operate a full payload between Sydney and New York, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said earlier in 2019.

For Sydney-London, Joyce said the aircraft would not be able to operate with a full payload. Instead, the manufacturers told Qantas they were able to achieve a payload that made the business case potentially work.

La Spina said the further discussions with the manufacturers were about looking to make sure the aircraft were future proof.

“We’ve got the Airbus A350ULR and we’ve got the 777-X. Both products can do the mission,” La Spina said during Qantas’s investor day presentations in Sydney on Tuesday.

“The economics and what we have been asking from the manufacturers, we went through a best-and-final offer phase.

“We’ve asked them to go back and re-look at that, to sharpen their pencils, because there still was a gap there. We are still eagerly awaiting to see what we get back from that.”

“That is just not around price. That covers things like guarantees, the what ifs, because this aircraft is going to be in the fleet for the next 20 years and we want to cover off eventualities.”

An artist's impression of the Boeing 777-8X. (Boeing)
An artist’s impression of the Boeing 777-8X, a Project Sunrise contender. (Boeing)

Pilot with most to gain if Project Sunrise goes ahead: Qantas

In addition to securing the right deal from the aircraft manufacturer, Qantas has said previously the Project Sunrise business case also relied on discussions with the regulator on ultra long-haul duty hours and fatigue risk management, the right onboard products to secure a sufficient revenue premium over one-stop alternatives, and a new enterprise agreement with pilots.

“If one of those factors don’t click in we won’t do it,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said during the investor day.

On the matter of a new enterprise agreement with pilots, La Spina said the discussions with the pilots’ union was about productivity improvements.

“In no way are we asking any of our pilots to take a pay cut. We’re not doing that,” La Spina said.

“We are saying, ‘yes you might have to be more productive to get the same pay’. We’re not going to apologise for that. We’ve been doing that since we started transformation.”

Further, La Spina said pilots had the most to gain from the growth in the fleet that will follow from the introduction of new aircraft for these ultra long-haul flights.

La Spina noted that up until the arrival of the 787-9 in the Qantas fleet in 2017 the airline had first and second officers that were unable to achieve promotion because the captains above them were not retiring and not leaving the company.

“It is only through growth that you unlock new growth opportunities, promotion opportunities for our people,” La Spina said.

“If we get growth aircraft that means we need more pilots to fly. More pilots to fly means we get more, let’s call it, from the street, which create a ripple effect through the organisation as you start to promote pilots.

“A promotion for a pilot is the biggest payrise they are going to get in their career.”

Qantas domestic chief executive Andrew David told the investor day that prior to the introduction of the 787-9 the airline group was training about 200 pilots a year to cover retirements and pilot movements.

Over the past two years, that figure had increased to 500 pilots a year.

Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) president Mark Sedgwick has said pilots were supportive of Project Sunrise. AIPA is the union representing Qantas pilots.

“We think the value to Qantas and the strategic benefit goes beyond this pilot EBA negotiation,” First Officer Sedgwick said earlier in 2019.

“Obviously we are willing to negotiate and discuss how they feel our contract may assist, but the strategic benefit to Qantas is clear and transcends the pilot contract in itself.”

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Comments (7)

  • Chris


    We’re not asking you to take a pay cut but we’re asking you to fly further and longer for the same pay!

  • Rod Pickin


    This is an interesting article because QF, when it concerns marketing and operational or similar matters, is normally spot on the ball; – the fact that they have requested further inputs from Boeing and Airbus at this time plus they are including industrial relations matters into the equation would indicate that they are now entering another time consuming “competitive tendering process” a system from experience, designed for the inhouse prolonging of, de-harmonisation of, aggravation of and the downgrading of many and various work conditions purely to reduce costs. If only QF would identify what they want in the first place this complete process would be completed at a fraction of the time that otherwise will occur. Asking the companies concerned to sharpen their pencils and have another look to me is offensive and not in QF’s interests. Boeing, by their own admission at this time is out of the time frame equation and Airbus has presented their A350 – 100 product for consideration based upon QF needs at that time. At this time, blind freddy can see that there is no aircraft available that can operate at or near full capacity on these ULH routes; in addition, QF, how many of these aircraft are you considering purchasing? 6 or 12? – It is reported that at the Dubai airshow that EK has a starter order of 50, rpt 50 units so, with respect QF, take a step back and have a good quiet think, there are others far mor up the food chain than the red rat.

  • Radar


    How many ‘Best-and-Final-Offers’ does Boeing and Airbus need to make?

  • Pontius


    Project Sunrise has another issue. World opinion is shifting against aviation wasting fuel. Ultra long haul burns fuel to carry fuel. SYD-JFK non stop could burn 20,000l more than a stop in HNL which could take as little as 2hr more journey time. Carbon offset anyone?

  • ThePillarMan


    QF is currently the only airline wanting to commence on these ultra-long haul routes. Currently there is no aircraft in the market that can travel the distances with the full payload and economics. Airbus and Boeing are not going to compromise on their current products and revenues (which were produced based on the majority of their client’s needs) just to pander to QF’s requirements for orders which will not be substantial (like 50+ aircraft). Pretty egotistical mindset from QF.

  • JC


    “there are others far more up the food chain than the red rat.” -rod pickin

    You don’t sound biased at all champ… Weather its for 5 or 50 aircraft, there is no point if they cant offer a product to suit Qantas needs. Therefor Qantas have every rite to tell them to ‘sharpen there pencil’ as you say (which i cannot find Qantas saying anyway)

    • Rod Pickin


      Hi JC and yes I am biased; – towards truth, honesty, practicality and a logical measurable conclusion. I think you will find that La Spina did infact say “Sharpen their Pencils”. Re the”suitable product” for QF, at this stage, as you would know, choice is extremely limited and when one considers the natural synergies with our own Military aircraft type, our Asian neighbours and some of the Pacific region too; – one simply can’t ignore the A350 type, – there is no other option for many years to come. The longer we wait, the further down the list we go plus, I feel the Boeing hiccup is a long way from finality.

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