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QANTAS Testing Non-Stop Flights to New York & London

Qantas has announced three ultra-long-haul research flights to collect data about passenger and crew health and wellbeing.

The flights form part of Project Sunrise – Qantas’ goal to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from Australia’s east coast of to London and New York.

The three research flights will be operated by brand new 787-9s on re-routed delivery flights from Boeing. Rather than flying empty from Seattle, the aircraft will simulate two Project Sunrise routes – London and New York to Sydney.

This will represent the first ever flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney, and only the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew, in order to minimise weight and ensure the necessary fuel range.

The passengers – mostly Qantas employees – will be fitted with wearable technology and take part in specific experiences at varying stages of the roughly 19 hour flights. Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said “flying from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right.

“No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise. We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing long-haul flights,” he added.

An Airbus A350 in Qantas livery.

Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to Qantas that are capable of operating Project Sunrise flights with a viable commercial payload. A final decision on Project Sunrise – which depends on aircraft economics, regulatory approvals and industrial agreements – is expected by the end of December 2019.

Watch this space.

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Qantas Plans For An Ultra-Long-Haul Future

Qantas has been surveying passengers as they disembark from the airline’s direct London to Perth services to capture their experience, suggestions and feedback.

The new research, captured in late 2018 in conjunction with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre, is being conducted as Qantas prepares for what it considers the final frontier of global commercial air travel—non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast to New York and London expected to start from 2022.

Boeing 777X aircraft sketches. Source: Boeing.

The results?

Health and wellness are the top trends coming through the research, with a strong focus on mindfulness and “separation of experience” at different stages of a long-haul flight.

Stationary exercise bikes and virtual reality relaxation and entertainment are among several innovations Qantas customers have also suggested.

Visions of long haul travel then and now.

David Caon, Qantas Industrial Designer, said Project Sunrise is pushing not just the boundaries of distance, but also product innovation.

“Customers are sharing some incredibly imaginative ideas, which is an exciting challenge and helps us to think outside of the box to redefine the ultra-long-haul experience,” he said.

Boeing’s 777X with its unique folding wingtips.

So what were the five most frequent Project Sunrise suggestions from customers?

  • Provide “sense of separation” experiences where passengers can be social but then “zone out” with either virtual reality relaxation zones, audio mindfulness experiences, or through the broader in-flight entertainment.
  • Spaces to do gentle exercise/stretches, promoting circulation and comfort.
  • Wireless, noise cancelling headsets.
  • Innovative cabin designs across the entire aircraft, considering both seat and non-seat spaces to focus on a broad range of traveller needs including comfort, sleep, dining, entertainment and state of mind.
  • An in-flight cafe offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including wine, fresh juices, herbal teas and tisanes and mocktails along with snacks including dips with vegetable sticks as well as “treat foods”.

Qantas’ Boeing 787 Dreamliners currently operate Perth to London non-stop flights.

“With the major aircraft manufacturers really pushing the ultra-long-haul envelope, the rapidly approaching future of flight looks exciting. Heightened levels of comfort and amenities will be essential as passengers weigh up the convenience vs comfort equation of ultra-long-non-stop flights”, says The Travel Authority Group’s Managing Director, Peter Hosper.

“Time is really valuable to our clients. The premium will they be prepared to pay for a shorter journey time remains to be seen. For airlines, cabin space is finite, they have to make it work really hard. The economics of this are fascinating”, adds Hosper.

Premium seating concept sketches for Boeing’s 777X aircraft.

CEO Qantas International Alison Webster said the new research is showing increased interest towards physical well-being, state of mind and personal time and space.

“Customer feedback from the Perth to London flight has exceeded expectations. The engagement and enthusiasm we’re seeing from this research highlights how passionate our customers are to be a part of the evolution of ultra-long-haul travel.

“Everything is on the table and we are excited about what innovations may come from this research”, said Ms Webster.

Qantas is expected to make an announcement around Project Sunrise later in 2019, including which aircraft type it would operate, with both the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350 under consideration.

What would you like to see on an ultra-long-haul aircraft?

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