Project Sunrise is less about saving time than how you spend your time

Qantas' Project Sunrise flights might save time, but they have another advantage: all of that time is yours, without interruption.

By David Flynn, February 25 2020
Project Sunrise is less about saving time than how you spend your time

There's little more than four weeks until March 31 – the final date for making what Qantas calls the "go/no go decision" on whether to commit to the globe-striding Project Sunrise flights, or write them off as flights of fancy.

All signs point in favour of the non-stop flights, following the airline's declaration that it was prepared to hire non-union pilots to take the stick on the ambitious scheme "that our international business needs to maximise its long-term success and defend its competitive position," according to Qantas International CEO Tino La Spina.

Barring a dramatic reversal by Qantas, in around three years from now, passengers will be boarding the inaugural Project Sunrise flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York.

Bypassing traditional stopover hubs such as Singapore and Los Angeles, the fleet of Airbus A350-1000s will carry up to 300 travellers on marathon journeys of up to 20 hours.

The Airbus A350-1000 is Qantas' choice for the Project Sunrise fleet.
The Airbus A350-1000 is Qantas' choice for the Project Sunrise fleet.

The well-heeled will be ensconced in private 'super first class suites' and well-appointed business class seats, with those on tighter budgets settling into premium economy and economy seats which are tipped to see extra width and legroom.

What all passengers will have in common is the fastest way to fly between those distant, other-side-of-the-planet cities.

However, when it comes to time, the most significant benefits of non-stop flights aren't measured by a stopwatch.

Take as an example the Sydney-London 'Kangaroo Route'. Today's flagship QF1 service – flown by an Airbus A380 – notches up almost 23 hours in the air.

Add two more hours spent on the ground in Singapore, with passengers briefly breaking their journey at the airline's business class and first class lounges, and the total travel time of QF1 is close to 25 hours.

Qantas' initial pitch for Project Sunrise called out a saving of 'up to four hours' by skipping Singapore, and allowed 'up to three hours' for travellers bound for New York.

The world's longest flights will still be shorter than making a stop-over.
The world's longest flights will still be shorter than making a stop-over.

But the real benefits of those direct flights are less about the time shaved off from start to finish, than the fact that all of that time is yours without interruption.

Project Sunrise flights, like Singapore Airlines' non-stop flights to New York, hand you 18-20 hours to divvy up as you like. Work, then dine, then sleep? Sleep, eat, then work and sleep again? It's all about letting you set your own schedule, one where mandatory stop-overs don't get a look in.

This is especially useful if you're following a very specific anti-jetlag timetable for eating and sleeping. 

There's another upside on the return leg from London to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Regular travellers from London or Singapore can attest that this final part of the journey short-changes you on sleep.

With 7-8 hours from wheels-up at Changi to landing in Australia, the window for sleep is at best six hours – and that's six hours in a noisy cabin, on a bed that's never anywhere near as restful and relaxing as the one at home.

A non-stop flight changes that for the better, and there's every chance that with a longer sleep under your belt, you'll arrive feeling not only fresher but with less post-flight fatigue and downtime. That's something which every business traveller and holiday-maker will appreciate.

Read more: Here's everything you need to know about Project Sunrise

David

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.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 46

David, I'm one of those pax lucky enough to travel at their own (self-funded) pace and schedule rather than someone else's. So saving a few measly hours on point-to-point, ultra long hauls was never an enticement, especially considering the 20% to 30% premium. But when you frame the ULH proposal as 'your time to do whatever stuff you want/need to do', instead of being merely the 'time-saving' option, then it actually begins to sound more sensible and palatable. Not saying I'll jump at the chance any time soon. But at least I'm more open to that option, under certain circumstances. I feel that if QF pitches it this way, they'll be able to sway at least some skeptical pax like me.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1041

I like the idea of non stop to do what I like and sleep when I like. As for the 20-30% premium your dreaming Alan. The Perth London premium soon vanished and there is no premium for Dallas vis a vis LA. There is a seasonal premium and a premium depending on the day of the week though (I just got a great sale fare for a Monday half the price of other days) . The choices on the QF website are all much the same for a particular date regardless of flights length. They will start with a premium for some classes in some Sunrise flights but that will fade over time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 115

I am with you, but something else for them to make this sort of pitch to work - do what you want with your time when you want - would be a dine on demand option, and I am not sure if that is even on the menu for Qantas (pardon the pun)

10 Jul 2017

Total posts 34

i feel sorry for people that can't spare the 4 or 5 hours it may add to your trip if you have a stop over. the idea of being crammed into a metal tube 30,000 feet above ground for close to 20 hours does not appeal to me. I love stopovers, even if it is only for a few hours. Walk around, check out the shops, stretch your legs, breath normal air, and feel half human again.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Likewise but the timing on QF 1/2 mean a very tight transit in SIN unless you take QF81 and connect to QF1 later.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2421

Note: some off-topic comments have been removed. This article is about the passenger experience of Project Sunrise flights with specific regard to travel time, not pilot salary, conditions and negotiations. Readers are reminded to keep comment on topic and to add value to the article and the conversation.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 3

Be interesting to see what the schedule of these flights would be for London to Sydney considering the curfews at both airports. If QF2 left London as it's current time c. 9pm (depending on daylight saving), that makes for a very early arrival in Sydney say 3am - whilst permissible under the current curfew rules it's not exactly a time I'd want to arrive. The London departure can't be pushed back too much due to the curfew there so would we see a lunchtime departure instead to arrive in Sydney in the evening instead?

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 3

Oops, should be not permissible since it would be outside the shoulder period

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 1

If the departure is pushed to 00:00-01:00 (one of the last flights out from LHR then the flight will arrive at between 05:00-06:00.

This means that all passengers will get a healthy night snack and basically go sleep.

5-8 hours later they will wake up, have a breakfast and get the "day" going according to the Project Sunrise scheme and plans.

Eventually a lunch/dinner will be served and there's still time for another 6-8 hours of sleep before it is time for breakfast and arrival into SYD.

The same goes for SYD-LHR but with a morning departure, breakfast, lunch/dinner, sleep, breakfast, sleep and wake up with a brunch type of snack/meal before arriving into LHR midday/late afternoon (if I calculated it right).

---

I totally understand why some travelers like to get off the plane and stretch their legs for a few hours on a stopover, however I know alot of people who doesn't like to stop on flights between Europe and Thailand/SEA. They rather pay extra for a direct flight so I see the benefits of direct ULH flights such as Project Sunrise and SQ between SIN and JFK.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Double edged sword. QF 2 is usual ride home so a full day in London for work. Back to Paddington and the Express and onward. Now a lunchtime ride like QF10 means losing that day to travel and getting to LHR. Upside is an evening arrival. Personally prefer current timings

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 36

My time just simply isn't that valuable and i feel bad for anyone who thinks theirs is.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Feb 2018

Total posts 8

One of the biggest advantages of the layover in LAX to connect onwards on QF11 was that you landed in JFK as a domestic passenger and did not need to clear immigration. Has there been any word on the implementation of preclearance at Australian ports?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2016

Total posts 24

Yes but you still have the customs and immigration in LAX and the WORST airport experience in LAX moving luggage etc and then getting to next flight - plus lounge experience is not ideal - even as a First Class Flyer it's frustrating the lack of preference and lack of assistance Qantas offer to us platinum first class passengers

It's not that Qantas doesn't offer assistance as such, it that Qantas can't offer assistance at immigration and Customs. The best they can do is give people an 'express connection' pass who have a shorter transit, but they can't give them out to passengers ending their journey at LAX.

(Heck, even the invitation-only American Airlines ConciergeKey card doesn't get you fast-track upon arrival in LAX, even if you're flying in Flagship First: the best they can do is meet you at the aircraft and walk you to the immigration area, but you still join the back of the queue, so it's kind of pointless.)

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

David as a regular monthly on QF1/2 the whole transit thing is now simply a painful experience. Gate C25 is a long way to the lounges, 40 mins to eat, maybe shower and then 10 minute dash back. Much as I like the QF lounges in SIN, it's just not worth the aggravation of the transit. Here is one PAX who is happy to go non stop.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

14 Jun 2019

Total posts 4

The problem with Project Sunrise is the same problem with the change to using Singapore as a hub.

Both force you to hub through Heathrow.

This has several problems.

The biggest problem is the journey times become significantly greater because you have to catch another leg to get to your actual destination (Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Milan etc)

The second problem is that you inevitably get stuck with flying BA, for that next leg, and it is an awful airline. Poor cabin service, and tiny business lounges with slow internet, bad coffee from a machine, and cornflakes in a packet.

The problem with BA compounds because BA is weird in that it will not put a priority sticker on your bags even if you are Gold or Platinum, and despite it being One World. The result is that if your bags are heavy, and/or it is a peak season, your bags get left behind. And you only find out when you land in Sydney, and wait (forever) at the baggage carousel for bags that dont arrive. And inevitably you end up in a debate where they try to talk you into coming back to the airport to collect your delayed bags. [Why do they always "try that on"? - do they think people are that gullible?]

The net result is that I am forced to get QF coded Emirates flights, so as to hub through Dubai. Two legs, one stopover, and I am exactly where I want to be.

There are worse airlines than Emirates, but their staff are all so young and inexperienced. Service comes with lots of smiles, but it is painful to watch how slowly a food cart gets down the aisle. QF crew are much older, and more experienced, but they do their job 33% faster (at least). And the staff friendliness isn't natural - it is forced. Worst of all though is that I cannot get an upgrade on Emirates.

But since the change to hubbing through Singapore, I am flying twice as much with Emirates now, than I was.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1041

I agree with you David re hubs and the advantage of Dubai. From Canberra via Perth is one less hub. The other weighting is the good-ish chance for platinum for an upgrade on the qantas London flights despite the BA plus a bus at Heathrow.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 387

@davidlec... Your points appear all over the place 1. You have the choice with non stop or stopovers 2. You can hardly call the BA lounges at LHR tiny 3. So what if the corn flakes is out of a box 4. I'd rather have qantas through and get on a shirt BA flight than changing on EK and go thru DXB which is overpriced with clinical lounges and the worst shower rooms... I could go on. Bring on the choice with qantas.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

14 Jun 2019

Total posts 4

At LHR the BA lounge isn't too bad, but irrelevant.
QF have their own lounge now, which is better.

The BA lounges I am referring to are the ones I have to use such as at Schiphol, Malpensa(Milan), Linate (Milan), Marco Polo (Venice), Vienna, CdeGaul etc. I mainly use them as a place where I can charge my phone and laptop, instead of wandering around the concourse looking for an unattended power point.

And you did not address the problem that my bags are not given a Priority sticker by BA. BA have regularly offloaded my bags. They are full of trade goods, and material for a tradeshow stand.

A mid-point stopover is much faster than a LHR stop over because from LHR, you end up flying backwards to
get to European destinations. Using a Dubai stopover and getting the first Emirates flight out in the morning can get me from Sydney to any European destination by 6-8pm the "same day" in Europe. Dont take my word for it - check. You can
get to Europe in around 21 hours. With the sunset special, you would be on your way to board your BA leg, when Emirates have already got you into customs at your European destination.

I might use "Project Sunrise" if it went to Schiphol (Amsterdam), CdeGaul, Frankfurt, or best of all, Istanbul. Anything but LHR, where I end up flying backwards on an airline who leaves my bags behind.

I am an engineer - I dont work in finance or insurance. Britain has almost no industry, and its market for the products I have designed and sell is about the size of the market here in Oz (ie way too small). My work destinations are always in the EU, something that Britain will no longer be part of before Project Sunrise.

Also the engineering that I do means that NYC is no good either. My USA destinations are SFO (work), Houston (our US office), Chicago (shows), Las Vegas (shows).

AA has showers for Gold passengers at major airports (Dallas and LAX eg). So do Emirates. BA do not provide showers for Gold passengers - Platinum & First only.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 61

I have no issues with stop overs (business travel), especially given the price saving there usually is. Although the only reason I don't take the direct flights (PER/LHR) is the cost otherwise I would. But fully agree the extra time is great, yes the stopover may be 2hours, but it's all the time you lose in landing and taking off again, pack everything away, seat belts back on, seat upright, get dressed lol.

Interesting, I had not considered the advanage of no stopover on sleep, and I believe its a real one, recently returning from Tokyo in Business I wished the flight was two hours longer to get sleep plus a meal, think if I was flying for business in business I would give it a go based on Davids observations.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 74

My wife ( reluctant flyer) and I ( geek) loved the Melb. - LHR and return experience. Bit longer flights do not frighten us as we know the suit cases are in the plane. Why fly to a hub to shop or look around? Will fly in J without apology, so the argument for owning the time to do what WE want is a valid one. Look forward to relaxing with some great intertainment, pleasant food and a good sleep and knowing we will arrive at a destination that avoids LA or a Sydney stop over upon return to Australia. Good one Qantas.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 23

I regularly fly Sydney DFW direct flight and apreciate the not stopping at LAX. However, your article suggests we are all comfortable and being spoilt on a Qantas flight. If flying business I cetainly agree, if in economy some seats and spots on the plane are more a nightmare and dont lend to sleeping comfortably, even watching a movie with the seat in front virtually in your lap and the video screen 14 inches from your face. Last flight I was on ( full flight ) the seat would not recline at all so I spent the whole flight in a very upright position. Alan Joyce talks big but doesnt address the real issues. Your article suggests we all travel in comfort and have a choice in how we spend time. Just getting to the toilet, avoiding waiting lines outside the toilet, geting comfortable in the seat, sleeping in the seats which are worn out and having someone constantly jab you in the back trying to get the entertainment screen to respond make it a survival trip !

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1041

Brett I agree but the upstairs economy cabin (pre upgrade) has generally treated me well. Downstairs (post upgrade) Qantas was nice enough to give me an exit row and my wife three seats behind (which we shared) which was also nice but certainly not to be expected. So generally not marvellous but at times you get a nice break.

obi
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Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2017

Total posts 31

I for one, hate the sound of these Project Sunrise flights. Being 'fed' carbs and protein at specific times according to some magical formula that is supposed to reduce jet lag is patent nonsense. So much for all being about 'how you spend your time'! You will have no choice in reality - if you decide to sleep during the meal service good luck with eating anything decent according to your own schedule. I have a friend who flies for long haul for a rival airline - and she said that if there was any benefit to be gained to eating at different times, then airline crews would have been the first to know. No such luck though! For me, these Project Sunrise flights are all about a certain CEO's massive vanity. Every angle is milked to get some media coverage and those so-called 'research flights' were nothing more than massive publicity grabbers. About the only thing they proved was how much different the real flights will be - from the J-Class only research flights. Sorry Qantas, I won't buyin' what you're trying to flog.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2016

Total posts 24

Totally agree, they will HAVE to add dine on demand for these “Sunset” routes - as pointed out in the article - you can only

‘Do as you like?, dine, sleep etc...” if they actually give you the option to eat “dine on demand” proper meals like Emirates first class and Qatar Business - First.

Qantas have made some awful meal choices currently with lack of actual meals and worse running short of food. This will be a fantastic route option as a regular traveller to both London and New York - however the meals will need to be catered for before I even consider flying this service. Including wines and walking areas ( troublesome on the smaller A350) with A380 my 2-3 hourly walk I do through entire plane helps me work my legs and body up the stairs and back to my seat doing laps.... I hope the main items are addressed

- dine in demand

- space to walk or move around

- larger business pods or doors! As everyone will have their own sleep cycle that works for them

- optimal lighting levels and not “forced” experience like the test subjects on the sunrise project flights

08 Aug 2017

Total posts 44

As long as I am in a premium cabin, I actually love QF8 DFW-SYD exactlybecause it is so long; for all the reasons David mentions. I can get work done, have a good meal and a few drinks, watch some telly, take a tranquilliser and have a decent length sleep. And the A380 is so quiet and smooth. I'm really keen for Sunrise to NYC and delighted it will be the A350. Can't wait. Admittedly, if I had to do it in Y it would be a very different story and I'd probably being having anxiety attacks before boarding... @brett123 you have my sympathy....

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

100 % with you on this Ben. QF8 last week and bumped up to the refurbished business seats was a treat. Have also been in PE on Perth to LHR and back. As you say Y could be and is a bit more challenging


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