Qantas eyes 2024 for non-stop flights from Sydney to London, New York

In a little over three years globe-striding Airbus A350-1000 jets could be settling into their new home at Qantas' Mascot hangars.

By David Flynn, October 7 2021
Qantas eyes 2024 for non-stop flights from Sydney to London, New York

Qantas says it's on track to begin the world's longest non-stop flights – 18-20 hour marathon treks from Sydney to London, Paris and New York – as early as 2024.

The airline is prepared to finalise its order for an initial fleet of up to 12 ultra-long range Airbus A350-1000 jets in early 2022, two years after the ambitious 'Project Sunrise' program was put on hold in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The inaugural flights of Project Sunrise – named the double sunrises which by passengers and crew would experience on these epic journeys – were originally slated for 2023.

"We'll be picking up where we left off with our direct flights to London and New York as part of Project Sunrise, which we hope will start operating in 2024/25," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce confirmed this week.

"We were very close to ordering the aircraft just before Covid, so it's great the company is now looking to its future in the decades ahead."

Qantas is ready to add Frankfurt to the Project Sunrise route map.
Qantas is ready to add Frankfurt to the Project Sunrise route map.

However, Joyce isn't quite ready to push the big green 'Go' button on Project Sunrise or that jet order with Airbus.

First up, there's the little matter of choosing a new domestic fleet of over 100 jets to replace its workhorse Boeing 737s and regional Boeing 717s.

Final bids from Airbus, Boeing and Embraer will soon lob onto Joyce's desk as the three manufacturers vie for their slice of an order worth around A$14 billion at average list prices.

Qantas expects to make its decision by the end of 2021 – cue some serious popping of Champagne corks in either Seattle, Toulouse or maybe both – and place firm orders by the middle of 2022, with the first jets to be delivered by the end of 2023.

The same team which squares away the domestic fleet replacement will then turn its attention to revisiting the post-Covid business case for Project Sunrise.

While the numbers made sense before Covid hit, Joyce believes there'll be an increased post-pandemic desire to skip stopovers and fly straight through.

Alan Joyce, ahead of a Project Sunrise 'research flight' from New York to London.
Alan Joyce, ahead of a Project Sunrise 'research flight' from New York to London.

"People in the post-Covid world will want to fly direct" rather than make stopovers, Joyce has previously remarked, "which I think makes the Project Sunrise business case even better than it was pre-Covid."

"This is one of the big things that will change in the next decade, and allow us to have a suitable competitive advantage that nobody else is probably going to introduce."

"Our decision on the preferred supplier of jets for the domestic fleet replacement will happen in December, and that frees up the team that has been evaluating the fleet to restart and complete what’s needed on Sunrise," Joyce told reporters during a virtual press briefing on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting in Boston.

"We're hoping in early 2022 that we can revisit and make a call on it, and so it could happen at the same time or slightly ahead of the (domestic jet) order."

This means that the first half of 2022 will see Qantas place its largest ever aircraft orders, ranging from either Airbus A220 or Embraer E2 jets that'll make the half-hour sprint between Sydney and Canberra to the globe-striding Airbus A350-1000s that will first connect Sydney, then Melbourne and Brisbane, with destinations on the other side of then world.

As part of a deal struck with the NSW Government in June 2021 to remain headquartered in Sydney, Qantas confirmed that "Sydney will be the launch city for the first Project Sunrise flights (non-stop to cities including New York and London) once international travel recovers and this investment goes ahead."

Also read: Is Qantas planning a new domestic business class for 2023?

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.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 105

David, in light of the proposed need for a number of Covid tests prior, during, pre departure and post arrival back home, plus necessary isolation, direct flights from Australia to whatever is available in Europe, America or Far East makes sense. Any reduction in testing, waiting for results etc halfway in say the Middle East is to be welcomed as it is unknown what the potential delays might be. Overzealous officials there found it difficult enough to deal  with both my artificial hips even in transit.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 487

I hope the testing goes away altogether fairly soon. We know that it will stay in place for the foreseeable future, but if the UK's recent decision to scrap testing for most vaccinated arrivals is anything to go by, then I think that's a good sign.

I personally don't expect testing to still be around in 2024. One would hope that the world will be fully back to normal by then, but it's simply too far away to speculate.

As this article concerns plans for 2024, there is little reason to be concerned with health requirements then. It's all up in the air (pun intended).

I'd be focusing on the next 6 months, during which Australia gradually transitions away from it's international travel ban and from 14 days hotel quarantine to an initial 7 days home quarantine, along with testing (which has been an ongoing requirement ever since last year anyway). Australia's proposed need for pre and post arrival testing concerns the immediate future once the present travel ban is lifted. No one has said anything about what might happen in 2024. Or in 2030 or 2050. It's simply ridiculous to speculate on such matters now, because by next year the rules will change, and then a few months later they'll change again.

After the first 6-8 months following the lifting of the travel ban next month, I expect further reductions in travel restrictions including a possible reduction or lifting of testing (for example, by that time it could be that only a pre-departure test will be needed for the vaccinated) and/or testing will only be imposed on unvaccinated arrivals. The point of embarkation or destination may determine what the stipulations will be. For example, if we take the recent Australia-New Zealand travel bubble into account, there were no vaccination or testing requirements.

I think New Zealand, along with New Caledonia and a few other "low risk" countries will be the first with which Australia lifts testing requirements and this will later be followed by America, Canada and Europe and finally Asia and the rest of the world.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1397

Hopefully rapid antigen testing may have improved a lot, and better antiviral drugs are around so the risk of being laid up crook for too many days May have eased. For a while it will be like a very very bad flu season until the drugs get better, which they are.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 487

I think this is realistic. 2024 is just over two years away. Of course if it happens in late 2024 that's three years from now, but I can totally see 2024 as being the year this plan takes off. This is assuming that next year is actually a recovery year and we see borders all over the world reopening, even if it's with conditions during the first 6-12 months or so. There is some momentum to reopen borders now after almost 19 months of uncertainties and closures so as long as there is no backtracking from here I think there is definite room for optimism.

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 305

For the premium cabin passenger with a bed it means no interruption to one's preferred sleeping pattern, but for the Economy passenger it means sitting almost upright in a basic seat for about 20 hours on the trip to London without the chance for a break to go walking around the airport of a refueling stop.  Cutting the journey time by 2-3 hours will be irrelevant for most passengers.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 363

Agree Phil and as price influences so many, especially in economy class, an alternative 1 stop service to save even $500 I think will likely be a deal breaker over the non stop. Economy class will typically persevere inconveniences like travel time to save money.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 487

If it comes down to price, then of course I would prefer to stopover (let's say if it's on a flight from Australia to Europe) a stopover in Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore for a night, if it comes out as a couple of hundred dollars cheaper after paying for a nice hotel, dinner and a bit of shopping totally makes it worth it and results in less jet lag. It doesn't matter how many times I've been to these cities, a stopover is still worth it every time as there's always something new to explore.

If the difference were only $100 or $200 for a direct flight, then that's what I'd choose.

07 Oct 2021

Total posts 1

I couldn't agree more, these long flights should have business and premium economy seats only

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 18

Like what singapore airlines has for its direct singapore to newawk flights

only premium economy and business class. 

08 May 2020

Total posts 32

Would love to see a focus on premium cabins (much more than with Perth).  An opportunity to try some new inflight experiences with a premium focus.  A chill out zone with space to stand maybe.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 37

Given the QF9/10 Melbourne to London and return flights via Perth were, (pre Covid shutdown,) running with very good occupancy levels in all classes including economy, I doubt the additional couple of hours over those flights with Sunrise will be a major disincentive. Those flights were around 17.5 hours in the air non-stop, ( + or - wind factors and direction,) is another 2 hours or so on top really that going to be that significant ?  Melbourne - Dubai is 15 hours anyway, it's not like the old two stop days when the longest leg was around 10 hours. 

As these planes are being specifically purchased for the Sunrise routes, and hence will be fitted out accordingly, I would hope the economy section at least has a bit more legroom than is common these days, but that's probably being overly optimistic.   

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 697

Ask the people who sat in economy on those flights what they thought about it specially the people who where diverted from other flight to fill the plane up. They all gave it the thumbs down.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1397

Phil,

Many of us prefer straight through fights hence the popularity of Perth London which into the wind stretches onto 18 hours. For me a non stop from Sydney to London may do it for me: just depends on price really.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 32

I agree Phil.  If I'm flying economy I will always choose a stop - in fact I usually overnight in Singapore or Hong Kong.  But even without a night stopover I will still take a few hours to wander the airport and enjoy a lounge/shower.  Flying business is a different matter, and I MIGHT choose the non-stop, depending on the price of course.  But to be honest I don't see them pricing it anyway near low enough.  As it is I nearly always fly Finnair business class to Europe.  It's about half the price of Qantas and just as good if not better.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 697

I’ve always been against these flights not having a stop over but once covid hit I quickly changed my mind, it’s a shame we couldn’t have the option earlier.

Ouch! 18-20 hours in economy class, you guys are all braver than me.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1397

Latte been doing it for years on Sydney Dallas and Perth London.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1000

I've done it on LHR-PER in Y.  I was fortunate to have an exit row seat but it wasn't particularly comfortable.  We had 3 adult mean squished into the narrow 789 seats so you were rubbing shoulders with strangers.  

I wouldn't rush to do it again.  LHR-SIN-MEL has better segmented flight stage lengths compared with LHR-PER-MEL.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 332

It is great we are given the choice by QF (and hopefully that will remain) but I'll keep flying to London via Singapore.

There is a level of nostalgia in a Singapore stopover for me personally ever since my first visit their in the 80's as a child.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 643

I'd like to see A220's, A320's and A350's..Boeing already got the 787 order(the only Boeing worth flying in)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 210

Seems like a massive gamble on the full return of business travel. I hope it works out for them!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Feb 2021

Total posts 11

I  agree with OttoV in regard to officialdom with  any medical  condition(eg hips) and unfortunately on the second attempt had a huge rod inserted which certainly alarmed the  screenings especially when working in China. Try transferring to Domestic from Int at Xiamen. I carried a report translated(certified) by my secretary in Putongua to help. Anyway, checking in/exiting twice will be the norm. Travelling always tiring and challenging in all classes whether we stop once if at all but everyone has their preferences. Best wishes and saftey for everyone in the future.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 32

I agree with the comments about the undesirability of a 20 hour stretch in a QF economy seat and I doubt the "improvements" to economy will amount to much more than an inch or two extra leg room. Qantas always focuses on the bottom line.

As for the aircraft orders, I do hope Qantas opt for the A320 family. Having flown in A319, A320 and A321 many times as well as the 737 family, the 737 fuselage's origins in the 1950s-era 707 show, relative to the spacious, modern feel of the Airbus product, not to mention the question mark over Boeing's design credibility highlighted by the MAX accidents. Well-promoted, the A320 would give QF a real competitive edge on so many levels. I bet Boeing are wishing they designed a new airframe, rather than making the low-riding 737 inherently unstable to accommodate new generation power plants, then "fixing" the problem via electronic gadgetry. 

 

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

Regarding the pricing of non-stop v. 1 stop v. a sleep-over stop, I wonder whether leisure travellers will work out how much per hour they pay to save travelling time.   In economy, it looks like $500 (+/-) per hour.  In business class it could be two or three times as much.  

I reckon that the ego driven bizoids don’t care how much it costs their employer, they reckon that they ‘are worth it’ being so important!

Qantas knows this and charges ‘what the market will bear’.


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