Airbus mulls ultra-long range A350-1000ULR for non-stop Qantas flights

By David Flynn, June 3 2018
Airbus mulls ultra-long range A350-1000ULR for non-stop Qantas flights

Airbus is considering an ultra-long range version of its A350-1000 jet as an alternative to the A350-900ULR for Qantas’ non-stop flights to New York and London.

Speaking to journalists in Sydney ahead of this week's IATA summit, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz confirmed that an A350-1000ULR was on the table.

“All bets are open, we are looking at both aeroplanes," Schulz said in regards to Qantas' Project Sunrise, which sees Airbus and its A350ULR pitted against Boeing's 777X.

"We know what we can do with the -900 because that's what is done today with Singapore Airlines, and we (will) also look at what we could do with the -1000."

The A350-1000, which made its debut in January this year with global launch customer Qatar Airways, is a stretched version of the -900 and carries around 10% more passengers over an almost-identical range.

Schulz confirmed a meeting between Airbus and Qantas earlier in the week to progress plans on Project Sunrise and how the A350ULR could meet Qantas’ ambitious needs to fly non-stop from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London, New York, Paris, Capetown and Rio de Janeiro.

One of the models being considered could see bunk beds, inflight lounges and even an exercise space in the cargo hold, using custom-designed 'lower deck modules'.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously flagged the notion of a 'sleeping berth' cabin class with dedicated exercise areas to help battle the fatigue of a non-stop 20 hour flight.

"One of the concepts that we have is maybe if we're not carrying freight you do something lower where cargo is on the aircraft, do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?” Joyce posed.

“Could some of the freight areas we may not use be used as an exercise area? Could they be used for berths for people to sleep in? Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft?”

Read: Qantas mulls sleeper berths and exercise areas in the cargo hold

Airbus plans to let airlines convert part of an airplane's downstairs cargo hold into sleeping berths, a lounge, conference room, family room or 'medical care zone' using modules which are interchangeable with a standard cargo container.



Read: Airbus plans to put sleeping bunks into the cargo hold

However, Schulz says that weight considerations will play an important role in the final configuration of the globe-striding jets.

"I think (Qantas) is interested in this idea but you have to consider what are the operational consequences of this. It takes some weight and weight is what you try to avoid on a mission like this. It's an optimisation between capacity and range, these two are linked, and that's where we working together."

Selling 'Project Sunrise'

For Qantas, the winner of Project Sunrise won't just be about an ultra-long range jet but an all-new product which "doesn’t exist in the market today," Schulz reflects.

"They have to understand how they position and price this product... what kind of cabin configuration, is it three-class, four class, four class plus beds, so it goes back to marketing-wise, how can you sell that product."

Shaping a non-stop jet for flights up top 20 hours won't just be about premium cabins, Schulz explains.

"People sometimes believe it's just a discussion for first class and business class, well no, it's also for economy classes, people stuck together for 17 hours, 18 hours or 19 hours. That's a long time, so you need to ensure you have a product that ultimately the marketing people... believe the market needs and they can sell."

"When you put somebody in a cabin for 8 hours or 10 hours on average, and when you put somebody in a cabin for a journey of 17 hours or 18 hours, you can't expect to have the same space."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 14

I suppose that it was a matter of time before Airbus would bring this up. With Singapore, only doing Business and Premium Economy on the 900 ULR. Airbus would need to work extra hard to sell the 350 to Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 323

QF if I recall would also want to carry some (preferably high yielding) Y passengers for Project Sunrise. It wouldn't surprise me if there is a small Y cabin (if not Premium Y aka 'W class') for Project Sunrise.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 14

Obviously. But i seem to recall that the aircraft used for project 'sunrise' would have a regular economy cabin.

30 May 2018

Total posts 36

The problem is not just range, but yield and profitability. Something more than an A350ULR is needed for the range to be comfortable all year in both directions for W Europe. SQ's experience with EWR-SIN has shown how difficult it can be to make money out of such ULH flights. For QF, it is about doing something differentiating to win back market share from Asian and ME3 carriers. These competitors today have the edge as their hubs are well situated to optimise operations and logistics. QF is at the disadvantage being at one end of the line. Non-stop is the only way to turn that around, but they'll need to garner enough market share of steady premium traffic to pull this off.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 219

Very accustomed to the one stop QF route to London. I'm in the minority but prefer Dubai to Singapore. Better lounges. That stop in Dubai gave enough time to freshen up, arrive at 6.30 am and then onwards to the office. A straight 20 hour run would mean wasting half a day or so in freshening up and getting going. If one saves a two hour stop but need the same or more at the other end to come back to life then it's a pointless exercise from a practical perspective.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2016

Total posts 22

It will be interesting to see if there's enough economy passengers willing to spend 20 hours non stop. I don't see the appeal, unless you're cutting into long transits that aren't long enough to have a decent sleep.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Mar 2014

Total posts 23

I seriously want QF to have a fleet of A350 aircraft. It’s crazy to think long haul and not have the A350 in the stable - wider & quieter than the 787 and I’d bet the 777 too!

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 85

I would imagine that whichever aircraft family (A350 or 777x) Qantas chooses for ULH will end up being in the fleet as a regular long haul type as well.

And it's worth noting that unlike the 777-9, the A350-1000 almost matches the range of the A380, should Qantas look for a smaller replacement in the medium-term.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 154

Mate, the howling of the banshees is quieter than a 777!


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 965

That will be an amazing flight, I personally don’t get the Perth thing but direct from the East Coast will set a new standard.


03 May 2013

Total posts 673

Airbus is the leader for passenger comfort-hands down. I would never sit in a 777 that long. The 787 with Gen x engines(which QF uses) is just acceptable but despite its advanced tech specs, it still doesn't compete with the A350. The A380 is simply bliss compared to anything else out there.

16 Feb 2016

Total posts 31

I would be one of the first to jump on a ULH in Y. Its not for everyone, but once you get on you dont have to deal with getting disturbed at weird hours. Would love to leave at dinner time and be in Europe by the morning. 3-3-3 would be bearable with 32in and an inflight bar.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 464

SQ’s prices for SIN - EWR look very attractive. I looked in an off peak period an they had PE at about $2200 and J for under $5k. Throw in a cheap flight from Perth and it looks better than any of the options via the east. A shame that SQ have decided PER - SIN does not need PE, so connecting to long range PE services has to be in Y. That’s OK on the way out but not what you want on return.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 85

I had a feeling that this was coming.

The A350-900ULR gains range by way of increased MTOW (up 5 tonnes) but the additional fuel required (24 tonnes) still warrants carrying well under the maximum number of passengers. Whereas the 1000 variant already has an extra 31 tonnes MTOW over the 900 out of the box, and with a different wing comes with basically the same range as a standard 350-900.

if Airbus can perform a similar MTOW/fuel capacity increase trick with the 1000, Qantas should have less issues meeting their goal of around 300 passengers (given a "standard" 1000 takes around 360 pax)

08 May 2018

Total posts 19

Have airlines ever considered to be their standard long haul for A350s or 787?:

2-4-2 for Economy (19in)@(32-34in)
2-3-2 for Premium Economy (21in)@(38-40in)
1-2-1 for Business
1-1 for First Class
A smaller economy and PE class allows airlines to charge the seat cost and opportunity cost of less business class seats ?

A lot of talk about extra activities (which will command extra price) is good - though i could imagine all the economy passengers rushing to the cargo area making that congested?

Cutting 3 to 4 hours for direct flights sounds attractive until you realise it comes at a cost of 20 hours in hell?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 232

Those seating specs look great to fly in, but it looks like those ticket prices might be expensive! There are a lot of factors that comes into play when an airline decides its configuration such as: optimal seating configuration to make the most revenue, will we be able to convince travellers to take this option even though there might be cheaper alternatives, will this configuration work in other markets if there are operational requirements or there is some external factor that makes the original designated route economically unfeasible to fly on and so on.

08 May 2018

Total posts 19

Yes, they look good to fly in.

Someone who is willing to fly 15 hours or more is going to look for the "time saving" factor than price. Its a similar concept to the new SQ flight to NY - unless its comfortable, I'm sure people would rather go through HK/ China/ Taiwan etc for the comfortable flight time distribution.

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