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Joyce hints Qantas could buy Project Sunrise A350s this year

written by Adam Thorn | January 14, 2021

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has hinted the business could purchase the Airbus A350-1000s necessary to fly Project Sunrise routes at the end of the year.

“People in the post-COVID world will want to fly direct, which I think makes the Project Sunrise business case even better than it was pre-COVID,” said Joyce at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday. “At the end of 2021, we can revisit [Project Sunrise] and look at what’s the appropriate time.”

In March, Qantas agreed to a deal with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) for its members to fly the London and New York to Sydney/Melbourne routes. However, later that month its order for the 12 A350-1000s was pushed back as the COVID crisis grounded all international flights.

Joyce said that while the business would “obviously” not put in an order until international markets recover, he was still “very optimistic” about Project Sunrise.

He added that the slightly shorter Perth-London 787s flights were the “best route on our network” and expected the same for those to the eastern states of Australia.


Project Sunrise has not been without its controversies, with AIPA president Mark Sedgwick hinting last year that the COVID-19 crisis played a part in pilots agreeing on a deal to fly the long route.

“This is an incredibly uncertain time for our members, with many stood down from flying on no pay, with no end in sight,” said Sedgwick. “When we return to flying, our expert pilots will be at the helm as part of Qantas’ ultra long-haul services.”

The vote brought to an end a bitter wrangle between the two camps, with Joyce at one stage threatening to bring in Chinese pilots to fly the aircraft if no deal could be struck.

Meanwhile, Joyce also confirmed at Reuters Next that Qantas will operate at 60 per cent domestic capacity due to border closures, and not the 80 per cent previously estimated.

“Our forecast now is for the third quarter for the financial year … will be at 60 per cent of pre-COVID domestic capacity levels,” said Joyce.

Earlier on Thursday, Australian Aviation reported how Virgin has extended its policy of waiving change fees from 31 January to 30 June in light of recent border changes.

Significantly, this makes its new rules far more generous than Qantas, which still gives passengers flight credit but asks them to pay a charge before making a new booking.

Virgin Australia’s new policy means passengers who book before the 31 March for travel until the 30 June can make unlimited changes without incurring any fees.

Qantas’ equivalent deal has now effectively expired for new bookings, meaning customers have to pay a change fee though will retain the value of the ticket as a flight credit.

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Comments (11)

  • yandy1958


    Even if it’s not for Project Sunrise, the A350-1000 would significantly benefit Qantas by increasing capacity on busy routes without adding more flights and without using an A380. Before COVID, their busiest international routes include Singapore, Hong Kong, and London, all of which are significantly slot-restricted airports that the A350 can benefit from with added capacity.

    • Matthew Norris



  • AgentGerko


    I think it would be yet another QF fleet mistake to end up with both 787’s and A350’s. If you have to buy A350’s because they have longer range then sell the existing 787’s and buy the other variants of the A350 for shorter routes and you end up with a commonality fleet of A330’s and A350’s (and A380’s if they ever come back). Definite savings in training and maintenance. I know QF has a long history with Boeing but the 747s are gone and there’s very little commonality between the domestic 737s and international 787s. The only other possibility would be to move the 787s into the domestic fleet for trans-continental routes and keep all the A330s for Asian services, preferably reconfigured with some PE seating.

    • Edward L Fletcher


      Never put all your eggs in one basket, just in case they ground one type.

  • Vannus


    Great news!

    ‘Project Sunrise’ has been a long-held dream of QANTAS’ for decades’.
    It honours those wartime flyers who were awarded the ‘Order if the Double Sunrise’, who flew in radio silence, from Aust to CMB.

  • Howard Miller


    Actually, quite a few of the world’s premier airlines operate mixed fleets of Boeing 787s & Airbus A350s, as summarized further below.*

    While every airline has its own reasons (political, commercial [for example, availability of lower cost import-export financing] or otherwise) for acquiring somewhat similar, competing widebody models from the world’s sole, duopolist suppliers, Airbus & Boeing, of modern, fuel efficient, passenger aircraft according to its home/domestic markets (if any as several of the airlines in this list, for example, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic or Qatar Airways completely lack domestic markets in their networks), the fact remains that entry into service dates & performance (especially range) also are important considerations, with the range of Airbus’s standard (non-ULR) A350 models typically eclipsing Boeing’s 787s (as it sought to protect its existing 777-200LR [Long Range] & future 777-X [the slow selling -8 model especially] models that QANTAS rejected in favor of the A350-1000ULR for Project Sunrise).

    – Air China: Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-900

    – Air France: Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-900

    – British Airways: All three (3) models of Boeing 787s (-8/-9/-10) & Airbus A350-1000

    – Japan Airlines: Boeing 787 (-8/-9) & Airbus A350-900

    – Qatar Airways: Boeing 787-8 & Airbus A350 (-900/-1000)

    – Singapore Airlines: Boeing 787-10 & Airbus A350 (-900/-900ULR)

    – Turkish Airlines: Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-900

    – Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-900

    – Virgin Atlantic: Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-1000

    Additionally, if the proposed merger of Korean Airlines with its hometown (but alas, failing) rival, Asiana, is approved by government regulators & shareholders, it’s possible that the combined airline will include Korean’s Boeing 787-9s & Asiana’s Airbus A350-900s.

    *Boeing 787s are listed in this summary 1st in each airlines’ fleets because that model, the -8, entered revenue service in October, 2011 more than three (3) years before rival Airbus’s A350-900 did in January, 2015:

    1) 787 models: -8 smallest & initial version to enter service in October, 2011 with a range of 7,355 nmi (13,621 km; 8,464 statute miles [sm]); -9 intermediate with longest range of 7,635 nmi (14,140 km; 8,786 sm) that entered revenue service in August, 2014 also for ANA; -10 largest capacity model, with the least range of the three (3) models at 6,430 nmi (11,910 km; 7,400 am) that entered service in April, 2018 with Singapore Airlines;

    2) A350 models: -900 (standard, NOT the ULR) is the smaller version of the two (2) with a range of 8,100 nmi (15,000 km; 9,321 sm) that began revenue service for Qatar Airways January, 2015; -1000 is the largest version with longer range at 8,700 nmi (16,100 km; 10,012 sm) which began service February, 2018, also with Qatar; A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) was introduced by Singapore Airlines in October, 2018 when it resumed scheduled service on the world’s longest nonstop route to/from New York City (via Newark Liberty International Airport [EWR] in New Jersey) after a five (5) year absence when flights using its quad-jet, Airbus A340-500s, could not be sustained during an era when the price of oil average ~$95 (USD) per barrel for more than two years (2011 & 2012) and in 2013 appeared likely to remain hovering around $100 for the foreseeable future and were dropped in November, 2013. The range of the -900ULR is 9,700 nmi (17,964 km; 11,163 sm).

    Like Singapore Airlines did for its Airbus A350-900ULRs, QANTAS’s announced plans for “Project Sunrise” calls for the purchase of 12 modified, ultra long range A350s – with one (1) critical difference: QF’s A350s will be the larger capacity -1000 models. Alas, to date, exact specifications for range performance of the -1000ULR or planned cabin configurations have yet to be revealed.

  • Post Covid we expect direct flights between Sao Paulo city, Brazil, the largest hub in South America and Australia.

    • Yes please!!! I live in Brisbane and fly to Rio at least once every year for the last 17 years (but not 2020!). For me it has been a case of BNE/SYD/SCL/GIG or BNE/AKL/SCL/GIG each way. Any reduction in stops would be great. I think a flight BNE/GRU could actually be quite viable given the significant resource industry connection between Queensland and Brazil. More than once I have recognised many Brisbane people on the SYD/SCL sector. On one occasion I recall knowing every person in Zone A on a 747 on that flight!!

  • Neil


    Looks like that spells the end of those Airbus A380’s in mothballs parked over in the Mojave Airpark! Both the 787 Dreamliner, and the A350 are very similar, but with the A350 having a slightly longer range, might have to sell of some 787’s?

    • Vannus


      And in the current world-wide Aviation sector, who’s going to buy second-hand aircraft?
      No one!
      QF will keep all its’ 787’s for long-haul nonstop flights, like PERLHR & MELLAX.

  • Benedict


    Where’s QANTAS going to get money to buy A350’s THIS year, or even in the next few years’?
    Is the $103mn annual saving of ground staff being made redundant, going to pay for them?
    Maybe these new planes’ are on the ‘discount shelf’!
    For a company that possibly nearly went broke in March 2020, this is odd talk.
    If covid border restrictions’ keep being put up, Rex entering the fray, & Virgin, as well, all reasons’ for QF to lose income, new planes’ would be on no-go list, one would think.
    As usual, time’ll tell.

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