Qantas on Monday finally confirmed Project Sunrise direct flights from London and New York to Sydney will launch in 2025 after it placed a firm order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s.
The purchase had been delayed numerous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the program itself was placed on ice.
On Monday, though, Qantas confirmed that it will soon welcome 12 Airbus A350-1000s to begin its long-planned non-stop flights connecting Australia’s east coast states with major cities such as New York and London.
The airline said flights are still on schedule to begin “by the end of the calendar year 2025” from Sydney.
Delivery of all 12 A350-1000s will be completed by 2028.
At the same time, the airline firmed up its order under its domestic fleet modernisation program Project Winton, officially lodging orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s, to gradually replace its fleet of Boeing 737s and 717s. Deliveries are expected to begin in late 2023.
Qantas noted that the details of both deals were “commercial in confidence” but that a “significant discount from standard price should be assumed”.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “New types of aircraft make new things possible. That’s what makes today’s announcement so significant for the national carrier and for a country like Australia where air travel is crucial.
“Throughout our history, the aircraft we’ve flown have defined the era we’re in. The 707 introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel and the A380 brought a new level of comfort.
“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance.”
Joyce said the Project Sunrise deal, along with its Project Winton order, makes the announcement the “largest aircraft order in Australian aviation”.
“Our strategy for these aircraft will see us generate significant benefits for those who make it possible – our people, our customers and our shareholders,” he said.
The purchase of the aircraft was the last significant hurdle to overcome after the airline in March 2020 agreed to a deal with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) for its members to fly ultra-long-haul routes. However, after this point, work on Project Sunrise was put on pause due to the pandemic.
Later, in January 2021, Joyce suggested that work on the suspended program could resume by the end of the year, suggesting at the time that a finalised order on the A350-1000 could be completed.
Then in February 2021, Joyce suggested the suspended plans could resume later this year, with a view to launching direct flights from London to Sydney in 2024.
At this time, Joyce also stated that Qantas, being an Australia-based carrier, is the only airline that could make ultra-long-haul travel to and from the country profitable.
“It is a unique opportunity for Qantas because Australia’s so far away from everywhere,” said Joyce, “And we could justify a fleet size of a significant amount of aircraft that makes it economic.
“We have three major cities on the east coast in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. And having flights to London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, from those cities, creates a significant sub fleet and economics of scale that we think will work really well.
“So, we’re still very keen on it. And we think that’s one of the big things that will change in the next decade, and allow us to have a substantial competitive advantage that nobody else is probably going to introduce.”
Finally, in May 2021, Qantas announced that Sydney would be the launch city for Project Sunrise – though it remains unclear as to whether this means it would also be exclusive to the city, or for how long.
The confirmation follows feverish speculation that began on Sunday when Qantas called a press conference and spotters noticed an Airbus-owned A350-1000 flying from the planemaker’s base in Toulouse to Perth.