Qantas has released new photos and videos from its upcoming fleet of A350-1000s that will fly Project Sunrise flights from 2025.
It comes as the airline has promised all passengers will enjoy increased leg room for what will become the world’s longest commercial passenger routes from London and New York to Sydney and Melbourne.
The Flying Kangaroo confirmed on Monday that it has finally placed a firm order for 12 widebodies, after the program was placed on ice for two years due to COVID.
When in service, each aircraft will carry 238 passengers across four classes (first, business, premium economy and economy), with more than 40 per cent of the cabin dedicated to “premium seating”.
Its six first-class suites are all complete with a privacy door, separate bed, lounge chair, individual wardrobe and a 32-inch inflight entertainment screen, while its 52 business suites feature direct aisle access. The 40 premium economy seats, meanwhile, will boast a 40-inch pitch and the 140 standard economy seats a 33 pitch.
Passengers will also have access to what it terms a “wellbeing zone” with a self-serve snack station and digital displays providing movement and stretching recommendations.
Qantas chief executive 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.”
The bespoke model ordered by Qantas has been specially adapted for such long-range flights, featuring an extra fuel tank so it can travel up to 16,100 kilometres.
In fact, its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 turbofan engines are powerful enough to fly from Australia to any major city in the world.
“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.”
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.
Monday’s 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.