Can the new ultra-long non-stop flights really save you much time?

By David Flynn, April 4 2018
Can the new ultra-long non-stop flights really save you much time?

Like it or not, we're entering the era of ultra-long distance travel – a world where flight times can stretch to 20 hours and stopovers are optional.

It could be argued that we're already there, at least in the case of Qantas' daily Airbus A380 flight between Sydney and Dallas/Forth Worth. This one already pushes the envelope for the superjumbo's range, at around 15 hours for the QF7 flight from Sydney to Dallas and 17 hours for the QF8 return leg.

But the non-stop heroes of 2018 will be flights to London and New York by Qantas and Singapore Airlines, respectively.

Qantas last month launched its direct Perth-London flight on the Boeing 787, yet for all the fanfare surrounding the red-tailed Dreamliner forging the first direct link between Australia and the UK, only some of its passengers will be Perth residents.

Qantas wants to see travellers from the likes of Sydney and Melbourne jet across to Perth on a domestic flight and then step onto the Boeing 787 to begin their non-stop journey to London rather than take the more traditional Kangaroo Route via Singapore.

By the end of this year, Singapore Airlines will also redraw its network map with non-stop flights to New York and Los Angeles.

Those flights, which will rely on a special ultra-long range version of the Airbus A350-900, will offer a welcome alternative to SQ's current New York-via-Frankfurt and LAX-via-Tokyo or Seoul.

But how much time do these non-stop flights really save the average traveller?

Qantas non-stop to London

Let's start with Qantas' Perth-London flight. It's a clear-cut alternative to the airline's flagship QF1 from Sydney to London, which now goes via Singapore rather than Dubai, and Sydney is of course Australia's largest city and thus where the largest pool of potential travellers could be drawn from.

Qantas lists the total travel time for Sydney-Singapore-London (including the short stopover at Singapore) as an even 24 hours.

Flying Sydney-Perth-London – the first leg on a domestic Qantas flight, the second to connect with the non-stop Dreamliner on QF9 – takes just over 25 hours, and if you scooted from Sydney to Melbourne to connect to QF9 at the very start of its journey you're up for 26 hours.

So at best, a traveller from Sydney will spend one more hour if they choose the 'non-stop' option of Perth-London (which is a non-stop only if you're starting out from Perth).

The upside, at least for some, is that most of your flying time will be spent in a contiguous block of 17 hours from Perth to London instead of 7½ hours from Sydney to Singapore and then 13½ hours from Singapore to London.

What about Melbourne? As it happens, the Victorian capital can claim the best of both worlds. Travellers can hop onto QF9 for a Dreamliner-all-the-way flight to Perth and onwards to London – a 23 hour journey – or fly north to Singapore and connect onto QF1 to London, a trip of just under 24 hours. 

Singapore Airlines non-stop to New York

As we've previously reported, the tail end of this year will see Singapore Airlines restart non-stop flights from Singapore to New York.

How will that change the lot of the business traveller?

SQ's current flights to New York take a globe-striding route via Frankfurt. We flew this route just last week, ahead of the delivery flight of the Boeing 787-10 from Boeing's South Carolina facility back to Singapore – and at just over 23 hours, it was quite the marathon.

By comparison, the non-stop Singapore-New York flight will cut a direct path over Asia and Alaska and is expected to do the trip in 18-19 hours. That's about half a day saved for the busy executive, and once again there's that contiguous block of time in which passengers can maximise their sleep, work and relaxation.

Qantas 'Project Sunrise' non-stop to London, New York

Push the clock forward five years and Qantas hopes to be running direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York, using either the Airbus A350-900ULR or the Boeing 777-8.

As is the case with Singapore Airlines' looming New York direct flights, this is going to slice quite a few hours off the clock.

Qantas estimates a 20 hour trip to London – four hours shorter than the Airbus A380 via Singapore – and around 18 hours to New York, saving three hours over today's QF11 and its LAX stopover.

(Given those long flights, little wonder that Qantas is considering a 'sleeping berth' cabin class and dedicated exercise areas located in the cargo area beneath the main deck.)

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce sees the benefits as doing beyond "a faster trip door to door."

"Removing the need to stop mid-way means your journey is uninterrupted. Less chance for delays on the ground; more time watching movies and sleeping."

Also read: Qantas wants four classes, 300 passengers in ultra-long range jets


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.

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

One of the advantages of non-stop flights is not having a connection especially if connecting to a different flight number on a different plane. Missed connections e.g. connecting to/from the QF11/QF12 flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) are where the big savings would come in.

QF currently flies BNE-LAX-JFK return. So if there was a big delay on MEL-LAX or SYD-LAX flights connecting to the LAX-JFK service or a big delay on the JFK-LAX flight on the return journey this could result in a missed connection potentially adding a number of hours or even in peak periods perhaps a day or two to the travel time.

So PER-LHR (London Heathrow) will help PER customers avoid a missed connection, but it doesn't make a big difference for MEL based customers versus stopping somewhere else along the way to refuel and those not flying on the QF9/QF10 service between MEL and PER would be exposed to a major delay leading to a missed connection.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

The other advantage is the long leg short leg experience. For the US East Coast from Canberra the Syd-Dallas flight is preferable to the LAX flight as the short final/starting leg is important (for me) rather than having a 2 hour break mid trip. I may use CNB-Mel-Perth-LHR for the same reason (and no buses) and certainly LHR-Per-CNB coming back as it is one stop less as well as a long leg short-ish leg.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 935

I really don’t get it for people on the East Coast flying to Perth and onto London, if it was East Coast to London or East Coast to New York business travellers would get onboard but flying out of The East Coast to London the Singapore or Hong Kong stop overs are a good stretch of the legs. Once there is direct flights from the East Coast that will be worth considering.


25 Sep 2017

Total posts 3

Canberra is on the east coast. I think they may like there new one stop service from London!


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

The Singapore or Hong Kong stopover is good if you're a shopper, otherwise one can stretch their legs in Perth just as easily. The test will be the relative balance of Melbourne fliers to London via Perth or via Singapore as they are much of muchness in travel time, but an arguably a better premium product via Perth. I am on the via Perth one in a couple of months so might see the Melbourne Perth load but there will be LAX-Perth folk on that so might be hard to judge.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 467

QF96 and QF9 don’t connect in MEL, so LAX-PER is typically sold using a domestic flight for MEL-PER in conjunction with QF96. There will be some domestic pax on QF9 out of MEL, so still not easy to judge the split at PER. For what it is worth AJ did comment on the strength of PER-LHR bookings.

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

Well the F (First Class) product on the A380 from MEL-SIN (with a ~6 hour wait in SIN before SIN-LHR) is clearly better than the J (Business Class) product on the 787. Better passenger to Flight Attendant Ration and better passenger to restroom ratio in F.

As for J then the 1-2-1 configuration on the 787 is a big plus for solo travellers. For couples it's less than ideal especially if you like seating next to each other with one of you having a window seat. The A330 flight is timed better to connect to SIN-LHR, but the A330 fit out is less suitable for couples wanting to sit together and chat than the fit out of the 787.

The A380 is the best plane and it does have the lounge area for chatting whilst others are asleep or as a convenient place to go and stretch your legs without getting in the way of others.

I'm leaning towards flying the A380 with upgrade requests for upgrades to F. I'm happy with the J product on the A380.

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 32

From a jet lag perspective I find it easier to land in the evening and take a longer break enroute, Hong Kong and Tokyo are my favourite stops but Shanghai works as well.

Whilst I would rather a whole day stop a pretty good routing is QF25 connecting to JL43 in Haneda for a 15:50 arrival in London. That’s a 6 hour break although i’ll often choose to overnight in Tokyo if I have time.

15 Feb 2018

Total posts 43

The beauty of flying non stop, and avoiding stop overs is you avoid the extra airport security in transit airports, such as SIN. Having to unload laptops etc, just to transit through airport security, I find a grave inconvenience. Give me direct any day.

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 111

true.I did it quite a long time ago via Singapore and it was awful in that sense.while I loved the fact I could stretch my legs and walk around the airport for a while plus had time to read up on my book on GREAT BRITAIN it's not for me.Via Perth next time I go.there is no real need for me to have the Asia stopover.the advantage of this service coming home is it's nonstop ex London to the west coast of Australia and with a good connection to clear immigration/customs and recheck my bags for my onward connection on the last flight of the day to Adelaide It's easier.Granted this is the only way you will get a decently timed flight through all the way unless you go Qatar Airways via Doha to arrive the following day thanks to time changes.everybody else is overnight to their Asian Hub and depending on schedules you leave there at some ungodly hour to arrive home the same albeit two days later.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jun 2015

Total posts 34

What would trim even more time off would be if Qantas along with the Australian and British governments set up a pre-flight border control and those flights arrive as domestic flights. With no stopovers there would be more border control for immigration, customs and agriculture.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 159

Until the ULR non-stops become a reality it’s going to be courses-for-horses for east coast pax to UK - via PER or SIN.

Won’t ever consider QF9 if doomed to travel in Y-class on a holiday or something!


02 May 2016

Total posts 62

Bring on more non stops, the less time in airports the better - transits, lining up with the masses, back through security, removing laptops, iPads, liquids etc list goes on, SIN is the exception of course but as a business traveler I just want to get where I’m going as quick as I can.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 386

I really like that QF gives this option now of via Perth or via SG, and in near future nonstops from EC. If I was doomed in Y class I would like a stop to break the journey for a few hours and stretch but up front far away from the great unwashed I could choose nonstop for sure.

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 111

it depends how you look at it.i have done the calculations based on what is our summer and ex adelaide via perth to london if you get say a lunchtime flight QF587 linking onto QF9 and have a six hour wait for the connecting flight works out at around 26-27 hours while the best alternative is a QATAR AIRWAYS VIA DOHA in the evening QR915 21:55 arriving 4:50am the following day linking onto to be safe the 8am flight arriving at the other end at lunchtime 25 hours later or there's an earlier 6:35am flight which brings it down to 23hours40minutes which makes nonstop from WA absurd for the SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MARKET.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

Puppy79 if Yu got the 2pm flight out of Adelaide instead of the noon it reduces the flying time by 2 hours wiping out the QR advantage

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 111

i was basing this on summer schedules by the way which is uk winter.trying to make the qf9 off the qf595 is too risky ex adelaide if someone holds up the plane from leaving on time.

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 76

AC do an easy 19.5hr trip to New York via a neat empty Vancouver stop-over where you do pre-entry US Immigration. Any direct flight will have to offer similar time, ease and cost to suceed.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 144

Well it depends on whether you want to save time or not.

If i'm off on a 3 week euro adventure I might want a nights stop in asia somewhere. I'm quite fond of flying CX and spending 12 or so hours in the HKG transit hotel. A swim, a massage, a nice meal and some shut eye is sooooo relaxing!

On the other hand, I'm off to London for a work trip or a wedding, I want to get there (or back!) ASAP. In this case I like the idea of leaving Oz in the evening and arriving in London the next morning. If you've got somewhere to lay your head upon arrival for a few hours, then perfect!

So, it depends on the value you place on that time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 92

Not really as whether a stop is in Perth or Singapore or Dubai, it is still a stop and therefor total time is not noticeably different for the east coast traveler. It is for the individual to decide where and more importantly when they would like to have their stop. Whilst Qantas has made a big deal about the Perth stop, I personally would like to have more even flight sectors for airport leg stretching whilst in transit.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

Probably not a great deal in it save that it dispenses with the hassle of security checks on the stop over. Making the check in Perth, as a Sydney flyer, is probably easier than the scrum that Dubai used to be. Horses for courses at the end of the day

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