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Thumbs-up for Qantas’ Project Sunrise A350-1000 fuel tanks

written by Jake Nelson | June 5, 2024

Qantas anticipates launching Project Sunrise A350-1000 services from Sydney to New York and London in 2026. (Image: Qantas)

Qantas’ Project Sunrise is a step closer to fruition after the fuel tanks on its modified A350-1000s received a green light from regulators.

Speaking at the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) AGM in Dubai, Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson confirmed the ultra-long-haul flights between the east coast and London and New York – set to be the longest in the world – are on track to launch in roughly two years.

Qantas has had 12 of the special A350s on order since 2022, which will be fitted with extra fuel tanks to make the 22-hour flights possible and will be configured with only 238 seats: six first class, 52 business, 40 premium economy, and 140 economy.

The design of the rear centre tank has now been approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), smoothing the way for the aircraft to enter production.

“We’re working very closely with Airbus, and the first aircraft is due to arrive from mid-2026. It’s passed all the certifications now, so we’re feeling very optimistic about the delivery timetable,” Hudson said.

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“This is going to be a fundamental part of our network structure.”

Project Sunrise was originally slated to launch next year but was delayed to 2026 due to “manufacturing issues” at Airbus.

Qantas is likely to be the only airline in the world to operate the services, with former CEO Alan Joyce arguing Australia’s position in the world meant only it would be able to justify investing in a large fleet of ultra-long-haul aircraft. Its launch is set to be one of the most significant moments in the carrier’s history.

Cam Wallace, CEO of Qantas International, said Perth–London, Perth–Rome, and Melbourne–Dallas are among the airline’s best-performing routes, and that the carrier wants to be “famous for being the ultra-long-haul non-stop leader”.

“In terms of our city pairs we’ll be launching first it will be either Sydney–London or Sydney–New York. We think it’s complimentary to our current network and it’s critical in terms of earnings,” he said.

The Flying Kangaroo is also in the middle of a huge fleet renewal program that will transform its domestic and international aircraft.

Internationally, Qantas will receive 12 new 787 Dreamliners and 12 traditional Airbus A350s to replace the bulk of its ageing A330 fleet, alongside the separate order for Project Sunrise.

Domestically, the airline will purchase 28 Airbus A321XLRs and 29 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes, but with the option to buy many more.

Subsidiary brand Jetstar has already begun welcoming its new fleet of 38 A320neos, comprising 18 long-range A321LRs and 20 A321XLR aircraft – an even longer-range variant.

According to Hudson, this is the largest fleet renewal in Qantas history.

“The new aircraft themselves will unlock new routes, new cabin experiences, that’s a good thing for our people as well because they get growth, they get promotional opportunities,” she said.

“Growth enables us to drive efficiency in our cost base as well, and so it is going to be a focus that we have, growing profits sustainably.”

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Comments (2)

  • Yes, it is very good news indeed but there are still many questions to be answered. Based on published figures with only 238 pax these ULH flights are heavily weight restricted so will pricing be increased to compensate for that penalty. The journey time indicates a need for up to three full meal services, – can the galleys support that need? and a very problematic issue, staffing, both Tech and Cabin, the numbers of and the additional crew rest facilities required. An interesting point to consider, can the additional approved fuel tank/s be fitted to the 900 series a/c which could mean substantial cost savings. Industry comment would be interesting

  • Geoff Fairless

    says:

    Qantas states “east coast” but we know that means Sydney. For everyone else, outside Sydney, it is a one-stop service, via Sydney, one of the world’s worst airports. Asset sweated and Government restricted. I will still prefer to have a break, even a stop-over, in a pleasant airport such as Dubai or Singapore, Still a one-stop service but who wants to spend 22 hours in an A350?

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