Qantas chooses Airbus A350-1000 for Project Sunrise

Qantas will buy up to 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets as part of Project Sunrise, with flights to begin in the first half of 2023.

By David Flynn, December 13 2019
Qantas chooses Airbus A350-1000 for Project Sunrise

Qantas will create a fleet of up to 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets under its ambitious Project Sunrise, which intends to begin non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to the likes of London and New York in the first half of 2023.

However, no firm order will be placed until Qantas clears the final hurdles of regulatory approval by the Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and negotiations with Qantas pilots. Qantas says "a final go/no go decision" will be made in March 2020.

“Between the research flights and what we’ve learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like New York and London to the east coast of Australia," said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience."

Also in the Airbus's favour: unlike Boeing's proposed 777X, the A350 has been "thoroughly proven after more than two years in service. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long haul routes if we want it to."

Under the Qantas contract – worth an estimated $3bn, assuming a discount of around 50% on the A350-1000's $530 million list price – Airbus will add an extra fuel tank to the A350-1000 and slightly increase the jet's maximum takeoff weight to deliver the 18-20 hours of non-stop flying required for Sunrise routes.

Qantas' non-stop Project Sunrise network will be flown by the Airbus A350-1000
Qantas' non-stop Project Sunrise network will be flown by the Airbus A350-1000

As previously reported by Executive Traveller, the Project Sunrise fleet will carry around 300 passengers in all-new first class suites and business class seats, along with premium economy and economy, the latter of which will also have extra leg-room compared to today's economy seats.

Also read: Here's what it was like to fly 20 non-stop hours from New York to Sydney on the Project Sunrise research flight

So what remains to be squared away before Project Sunrise can be given the green light?

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority must approve an extension to the current operating limits required for these ultra long haul services. However, the airlines says that "based on detailed information already provided by Qantas on its fatigue risk management system, CASA has provisionally advised that it sees no regulatory obstacles to the Sunrise flights."

Industrial negotiations with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) are ongoing, with the airline describing these as "closing the last remaining gap in the Project Sunrise business case." In other words, it comes down to money.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the economics and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots," Joyce says. "We’re offering promotions and an increase in pay but we’re asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs."

“From the outset, we’ve been clear that Project Sunrise depends on a business case that works. We’ll only commit to this investment if we know it will generate the right return for our shareholders given the inherent commercial risks."

How Airbus won the Project Sunrise campaign

Airbus has long been confident on the competitive strengths of the A350, and many considered the A350 to be in the box seat compared to the Boeing 777X, which has recently faced a series of delays.

"The A350-1000 is the perfect airplane to answer (Qantas') ultra-long range challenge with significant passenger payload," Airbus Head of A350 Product Marketing Maria Lucas-Ugena told Executive Traveller in October.

"It is by far the most capable, large wide-body aeroplane flying today, it is also more capable than the future (Boeing) 777x," Lucas-Ugena added.

"It is extremely light, compared to what the competition can offer, and when it comes to range capability and economics and everything that is needed for such a long flight, weight is most important. It can take off 45 tonnes lighter than the competition. That implies huge savings in terms of fuel (and) emissions."

"In terms of noise, air quality, cabin pressure and humidity levels, all of that is on the A350 and it's unbeatable, today and tomorrow even. What we have been discussing with Qantas and would be driving with Qantas (are) some of the different features that such a long flight will have to have, for the passengers and for the crew as well."

What the A350-1000s won't have – sleeping bunks and social areas in the cargo hold, despite initial forays by both Qantas and Airbus into creating bespoke 'below-decks' passenger modules which could replace cargo containers.

An Airbus concept for below-decks sleeping bunks.
An Airbus concept for below-decks sleeping bunks.

Photo gallery: How Airbus plans to put passengers in the cargo hold

“The package we looked at – putting things in baggage holds – didn’t work,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller in June this year.

Instead, there'll be a communal area on the main deck "for a number of people to stand up and do exercise: there’ll be video screens with stretching exercises to work on, and an area that the scientists have thought out that’ll be more of a ‘hydration station’.”

Read: Qantas rules out below-deck sleeping bunks on Project Sunrise jets

Lucas-Ugena also sees the A350-1000 as a solid fit for Qantas' entire network, while Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has said the Project Sunrise jets would also serve a replacement for the A380 superjumbo, which are expected to be retired towards the end of the 2020s.

"We consider the airplane can operate economically and flexibly on the entire long-haul wide-body network of Qantas, which is something that the 777-8 couldn't do with the right economics," Lucas-Ugena told Executive Traveller. "So I think that would be a tactical decision to go for an airplane that can serve in an efficient manner not only on those ultra-long range routes but anywhere else in the network."

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.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 475

Common sense has prevailed. Well done Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 101

Great choice and great aircraft.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 321

I think as soon as Boeing delayed the 778, this was always going to be going to Airbus.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 752

Smart move. Plus cockpit commonality with other Airbus wide-bodies, and customers already know about the A350 and choose to fly it. Also a great choice for normal long-haul. Now let's hope they don't enhance the cabin too much.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 101

Let's hope the premium economy is more revolutionary than last 787.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Apr 2013

Total posts 17

The 787 Dreamliner is the most uncomfortable squishy plane in the skies.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Definitely compact and you get well acquainted with your neighbours but I came off QF10 pretty fresh and dandy so the atmospherics were fine (at least for this traveller)

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Just on this, came back yesterday on QF10 in premium. The seat was comfortable and had the bulkhead and aisle. Legroom therefore was fine and no one reclining into me. But it's a tight configuration on the 787-9.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 92

Yes! I particularly like CX A350.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 151

Very good choice by QF. The A350 is a really fabulous aeroplane to travel in.

Absolutely top comfort and every bit as good as the fantastic A380 which is one of the best I have ever travelled in .

As mentioned commonality between Airbus types means quite simple endorsement for pilots and that's a big money and time saver.

Having said all this there's no way I will sit in one for up to 20hrs even in the updated business class.

Way too long a sector , via Singapore for a leg stretch is the way to go for me!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 14

Qantas's passion for Boeing was beaten by pure logic. The A350 was by far the best solution based on a new technology frame / wings and an almost flawless product introduction. By way of proof, Air France ordered 10 more within weeks of taking delivery of their first A350. Boeing must hold serious concerns over the 777x product line as Airbus has about three times the orders for their A350 than Boeing has for the 777x

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 447

I know a lot of people wanting to try this out, so they will have solid bookings. Just need to wait 24 months.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 96

With the 737 fleet up for a decision on replacement I wonder if Airbus will get the nod there too? a320/321 family does seem a good bet after all the MAX issues.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 687

It's a very different process and it is likely Qantas is treating it as such. Of course, the MAX issues won't have helped Boeing's case but the incumbency of the 737 within the mainline fleet as well as Boeing very keen to have a win so sharpening their pencils a lot may counteract this.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 92

I don't know reeves35. I don't care what Boeing does to its 737maxx, I'll never fly on one! It's time they dropped the 60's 737 and started again from scratch.

I find the A350 & 320 to be more comfortable than their Boeing counterparts.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 181

I wouldn't be suprised that Airbus has offered good discount on future orders of A320neos/A321neo and A330neos

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 181

This is a real coup for Airbus with Qantas selecting the A350-1000 for Project Sunrise. I wouldn't be suprise that Airbus will announce the A350-1000ULR once Qantas firms the order next year, with Qantas being the launch customer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 92

Tommygun: I really hope so! I love CX A350 and travel on the 320 throughout EU. Maybe Qantas's love affair with Boeing is over? I'm crossing my fingers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 61

Fantastic. Boeing's rubbish anyway.

Although I agree with @rod h. I'd avoid a long haul flight like this.

Stopover in the ME or Asia will always be better irrespective of the class I'm sitting in.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 438

I wonder if the 2nd stretch of the A350 is still a possibility. It would be a good fit for Qantas for the not quite so long flights.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 687

Yes, an A350-1100 would be the logical replacement for the A380 in around 10 years time.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 88

A Qantas fleet running A350-900, 1000 (+URL) and 1100 variants could be an interesting mix in the medium-long term.

I thought it was all another publicity stunt, silly me. Poor flight crew & economy passengers.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 88

Everything seemed to point to the A350, so good on Qantas for making that choice. It will be interesting to see what this does for Qantas' other fleet plans - could we see some A350-900s in Qantas' future as well?

03 Feb 2016

Total posts 1

Or maybe some A330 900 NEOs to replace the A330s on domestic and Asia routes?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

I would've thought the -800 would be better given the smaller size and therefore easier to fill but there are other things that make the -900 more value for money in terms of operating costs, even with the more seats.

19 Jan 2017

Total posts 3

Love love love the A350... My question (and suspicion) from the back of coach, 9 across as it should be, or 10 across ???

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 320

I don't think any carrier has 10 across in the A350, do they?

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 67

It won't be 10 abreast seating as no full service airlines operate the a350 in 10 abreast. Only a couple of LCCs and leisure airlines do.

It's the same for the 767 and a330, which seem to have a sweet spot where only a few leisure and low cost airlines ever operate the tight configurations due to it being way too tight and with aisles that would be very operational hard to use for the cabin service.

Current Operators of the a350-1000 have around 330 seats on these planes with usually about 50 business and 50 premium seats. With Qantas only being able to have about 280 pax, there should be more space for economy even if the business/first class seat count goes upto eighty.

16 Nov 2018

Total posts 19

Wouldn't be surprised to see Qantas turning into an all Airbus operator in the future. Airbus just happens to have the right fleet solution for QF, A220, A320/321NEO, A330NEO, A350, all perfect for an airline like Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1388

Not with young 787s and a suite of cheap options. See more of these rather than 330s.

Agree on the others though, although the A380 will be with us for a while, and I expect another competition in 7-10yrs between a 350neo1100/2000 (ie. additional stretch) and a re-engined 777-9

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 560

Don't think they have that many options left, think around a dozen and they have to be exercised fairly soon.

They have purchase rights on some more but they are different to options.

Now I don't see them retiring their 787's anytime soon, but would expect seeing the smallish capacity of their 787's they will probably start to become A330 replacements for Asian routes with more A350 variants doing the longer runs, but with greater capacity.

Time will tell.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

no matter how hard they try- it's still a nearly 20 hours flight-it's ok for first and business but for most suckers will be a nightmare-on top of that expected to pay 30% more?The company saves money with these flight yet they increase the price? 'please explain'-rather pay for SQ for their first class with a break!Sipping DP and eating lobster in their lounges!Will be a nightmare flight with 20 hours nonstop crying babies!Not to mention the condition of the toilets after 300 + people do their business and no stopover to change??

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2015

Total posts 59

Great choice!

13 Dec 2019

Total posts 1

Aircraft and Sunrise Project i believe are fantastic. I only hope Melbourne will not be forgotten as usual by Qantas as a second thought

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Melbourne.... I have heard of that place. Great vibe and coffee I hear. Just kidding, love the place.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 375

Well done. Good choice. Love the 350. What do the naysayers say now?

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 10

I've flown on both the 787 & 350. To me, the 350 is the better plane for comfort. The ergonomics of the plane are just better I was rapt to see QF have chosen the a350-1000. The 380 is still my favorite though!

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 31

A350 is the best airliner in the air right now, hands down. I only fly QF domestically, but watch the company closely. This is a good choice and Sunrise will be a great business decision if it comes to fruition. Now I want UA nonstops to IAD and JFK from MEL.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 93

They've selected the A350. Haven't ordered it.

In the mean time Boeing starts preparing another bid.

Lots of water to pass before this is real. Let's see what happens.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 447

Fuel safety concerns with the 787, 737 Max grounded, no 778X yet, looks like Airbus have a free run for world domination

Now all that's left to do is order another 100 A321's for QF domestic (on top of the 99 for Jetstar) and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Alan Joyce wants to leave Qantas on a high and there was no way in the world he was going to choose more NightmareLiners (with lithium battery issue still not solved) and 737 Max 8 for the 737-800. He's old enough to remember what the DC10 did to McDonald Douglas. Anything with 8 in it now is like DC back in the 80's. Passengers will not fly on it no matter how many names you give it. Expect Virgin to dump their 777s and sign up for A350-900 and A321 for their 737-800 replacement.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 687

Virgin has already signed for MAX8s and MAX10s to replace their 738s and is currently negotiating with lessors to extend the leases of 77Ws and A330s on improved terms.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 363

Hopefully he's also old enough to know that the company's name was McDonnell Douglas!

QF fleet: A220 for 717, A321 for 737-800, A350-900 for A330/787; A350-1000 for 747 and Project Sunrise; A380..

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 687

There is no way QF is planning to replace its 787 fleet. I'm not ahuge fan of 787 but Qantas has great pricing in place and is likely to grow the fleet further.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

787-9 is not going anywhere fast. Look at the Emirates order. Will form the bedrock of many a fleet for a long time so we had better get used to it I guess

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 18

“Stupid is as stupid does”.

Just a few hurdles to get over. CASA approval seems a formality to Joyce. Oh, and the pilots likely will agree too, as pay adjustments and promotions will fix that.

Safety concerns anyone? Not just for passengers, but for cabin staff and flight crew. Sweep the flight length effects under the carpet. No need for concern, this aircraft flies itself! Nothing can go wrong....

Everyone will get to the destination quicker than ever and NO stops. Super!

I think this proposal is dumb, and the notion of flying longer has not been thoroughly tested for commercial operation. Pilots should not get locked into an agreement to fly long periods that has not been proven to be free of detriment to their health. It has yet to proven that sustained periods of long haul non stop flights will not affect flight crew. The lure of “getting ahead of the opposition” is just too tempting for Joyce and co., and will continue on, ignoring all danger signs, into “Project Sunrise” which hopefully after a short period, will set.

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 31

I'm not an expert on these matters but Singapore Airlines has been running ULR services on and off for years and must have built up a body of data about the effects on crew, surely?

30 May 2018

Total posts 26

What is all this about '18-20 hr flights have not been tested" and " we don't know what the effects will be" ? Singapore Airlines have been operating such flights on SIN - EWR (Newark) since the early 2000's. with A340-500s. They stopped for a few years waiting for a more fuel efficiency and recommenced with A350-900ULR's. Also, Qatar have operated DOH - AKL for some time now. We know a great deal about it.

18 Oct 2019

Total posts 16

Although these flights will be long, they will be solidly booked I think. Choosing the A350-1000 was a no-brainer, more so with all the issues being uncovered at Boeing. Looking forward to flying directly to Cape Town!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 43

With 12, I'm curious as to the routes. SYD/MEL LHR is a given as is SYD JFK. Can't see MEL JFK happening as Qantas is Sydney-centric, but maybe BNE LHR or will it be SYD CDG?

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 560

It says UP to 12. So could be less.

And frankly if they do order them I would expect to see them on shorter routes too.

30 May 2018

Total posts 26

After 18 years Platinum status with Qantas, 17 of which I've been living in Paris, I just quit Qantas (I have Lifetime Gold anyway) for Air France Flying Blue. Too many disappointments with endless announcements of direct Paris flights never coming to fruition and relentless devaluation of points. If QF start this direct CDG service in a couple of years, I'll consider coming back. As of this week however, as Air France now have reciprocal loyalty program benefits with QF for earning and spending points, the issue is more moot.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 664

To thone add capetown and further points in Latin America; possibly Paris (seat limit to around 5 days/week) and Frankfurt. All Soon use up a dozen aircraft.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 975

The current air service agreement to mainland France allows for 3 "units" per week. A "unit" is based the amount of seats on the aircraft flying the route.

The QF 787 config of 236 seats falls into the 0.5 unit range (200-239) and 6 flights. The Sunrise "target" of 300 seats falls in the 0.7 unit range (280-319) for 4 flights/week.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2015

Total posts 41

A good call by Qantas at the moment with all the Boeing issues.

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 31

Ultra long haul flights make no sense unless you are a business class passenger needing to get from A to B asap. Half the fun is dropping down in Asia and stretching your legs. A seriously flawed strategy by Q for non business class passengers. Time to sell QF shares.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

Note your point but if on QF 1/2 (my monthly carriage to LHR) the pitstop at changi is 90-120 minutes which includes discharging PAX and loading up. Usual mad dash to the lounge for a freshen up and chow. Certainly stretches the legs and also the time. Commercial travellers don't always have time to spare on an overnight stop. In any event Qantas already flies 17 hours or so from Dallas and to Perth so tacking on a couple more to bridge the gap between the east coast and LHR and JFK is a question of when and not if

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 664

P there are many business passengers who want to get from A to B but for a range of reasons (mainly cost) don't fly business class. The success of Sydney Dallas and Perth London are testament to that. Not sure how it is a flawed strategy. I would take an economy seat on these new routes if the price difference compared to via Perth/Dallas was not too great. Their dynamic pricing software soon sorts out where that point is.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 975

Hard to say that any "success" of PER-LHR is because people want a 19 hour flight or because they aren't given an option. It's been shown that Qantas has been advertising PER-LHR routing over the via SIN options, so people looking for flights to LHR often have to skip over the PER route - something many people don't do.

SYD-DFW isn't really any different to flights like HKG-JFK.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 664

Himeno my experience on the QF website I am given both the Perth and Singapore options (from Canberra) and I take via Melb (no bus) and Perth: the stop is so much easier in Perth than Singapore. I am not one to fall for advertising that easily. I use DFW quite a bit and coming back it is often 17 hours much the same as the Perth London going into the wind, and the other direction (with the wind)is 15.5 hours again only half an or or so less then the London Perth, so to me at least there is not much in it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 43

People used to say that about going 14hrs non stop to the US (instead of via NAN HNL stops). Things move on and the world changes. Non stop to Europe will be the norm soon

Air Canada - Aeroplan

02 Sep 2015

Total posts 15

A350 seems excellent choice , has already been operating non stop Singapore to NY successfully for a couple of years. Qantas has unique ultra long range requirements and obviously this is a niche market for a small number of aircraft. It may well lead to further orders for A350, possibly both 900 and 1000, for Qantas mainline fleet. Should be remembered that Boeing and Airbus offered the 777-200LR and A340-500 for the ultra long haul market about 20 years back and only sold about 50 of each. Difficult to see economy passengers paying a significant premium to avoid a stop , and may be better to concentrate on high value passengers like Singapore Airlines.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 155

If they are going ahead with this, can I suggest one area to dedicate more space to (instead of onboard bar/lounge etc) - bathrooms.

Given the length of the journey, have more bathrooms and slightly larger than standard bathrooms to allow passengers a proper 'comfort stop' if you will, would be much appreciated.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

100%. Came back on QF10 yesterday and the bathrooms were definitely 'compact' compared to the A380.

So does this mean no more Dreamliner for Project Sunrise? Also is the A350 1000 the same plane Singapore Airlines use for its long haul Singapore to New York flights

I wonder if Qantas will trial out this plane first before finally putting in into service. I suppose they will be using ex A330 pilots for these new A350's

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 664

Albinon the Dreamliner wasn't in the running for sunrise, neither the load or the legs for the distance the option was the 778 which isn't built yet and more importantly may not be built. Singapore airlines uses the slightly smaller A350-900 with an all business/premium economy lay-out. Airlines tend to try these planes out on few domestic routes first as they did with the 787. They plan a common rating with A330s so they will use senior A330 Pilots interchangeably so they won't be -ex as you suggest.

31 Dec 2019

Total posts 1

Really interested to see the scheduling for Aus to NY. If the flights leave at the same time and therefore get to NY 3hrs earlier that'd be brilliant. Arriving at 1:30pm vs. 4:30pm in the winter is the difference between arrive in the light or the dark.

If they arrive at the same time, however, I think I'd opt for the A380 and a shower in LA, SF, or Chicago.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 664

I think they will aim to arrive a little earlier as there will be time for connections to Boston, Washington etc. arrv9n gta 4.30 is a little late for many connections. Requires 2 hours at a minimum for a safe connection and JFK Immigration ain't much fun..


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