Qantas: non-stop flights to London, New York to be carbon neutral

The ambitious Project Sunrise flights will be 100% carbon-offset, Qantas pledges.

By David Flynn, March 9 2021
Qantas: non-stop flights to London, New York to be carbon neutral

Qantas will carbon-offset every seat on every Project Sunrise flight as a key measure in battling the rise of 'flight shaming', which is seeing some environmentally-conscious travellers question the carbon cost of flying.

At between 18-20 hours, the non-stop treks from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to the likes of London, New York and Paris and Frankfurt will be the world's longest flights.

And despite being handled by the fuel-efficient Airbus A350-1000, they'll still come with a hefty CO2 footprint.

The flight emission calculator at MyClimate.org suggests one passenger flying in business class on a non-stop flight from Sydney to London or New York will be responsible for an average of 5.6 tonnes of CO2, with 8.75 tonnes for first class flyers.

Qantas' initial set of likely Airbus A350 Project Sunrise routes; Frankfurt was later added to the list.
Qantas' initial set of likely Airbus A350 Project Sunrise routes; Frankfurt was later added to the list.

Before COVID-19 grounded Qantas' international flights and its four-engine Airbus A380s, the cost of carbon-offsetting a one-way trip between Melbourne and London was estimated at $25.

Qantas was "two weeks away from ordering the (Airbus A350-1000) aircraft back in March last year before COVID hit," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce recounted to The Australian Financial Review Business Summit held today in Sydney.

Project Sunrise was immediately put on hold as the airline dug in against the pandemic, but Joyce plans to revisit the ambitious program – and the on-hold order for an initial fleet of up to 12 ultra-long A350-1000s, each fitted with an additional fuel tank – at the end of this year.

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

Qantas' Project Sunrise flights will be the domain of a fleet of ultra-long range Airbus A350-1000 jets.
Qantas' Project Sunrise flights will be the domain of a fleet of ultra-long range Airbus A350-1000 jets.

If Project Sunrise gets the go-ahead and the globe-striding jets take wing from mid-2024, every berth from the promised 'super first class' suites to the extra-legroom economy seats will have their carbon emissions fully offset by Qantas.

"We've said we'll carbon offset every passenger on the aircraft because there’s a big push in Europe not to travel called flight-shaming, which is a big issue," Joyce said.

Joyce recalled his trip from London to Sydney on one of three Project Sunrise 'research flights', which relied on a Boeing 787-9 carrying just 40 passengers for 19.5 hours.

"We had the BBC and CNN on board and the number one question was, from the European journalists, was why would anyone do this with the carbon emissions we’re going to have on these flights."

One in ten passengers choose to fly carbon neutral

Joyce says that "around 10%" of people who book their flights via the Qantas website tick the Fly Carbon Neutral box to pay extra to carbon offset their trip, while "the worldwide average is only 1%."

The airline's frequent flyers earn 10 Qantas Points for every dollar spent on carbon offsetting, which Qantas then matches dollar for dollar.

The airline supports a range of accredited projects including rebuilding wetlands and replanting endangered rainforest at Queensland's Babinda Reef, and an  indigenous ranger-managed fire abatement project in Western Australia to prevent uncontrolled wildfires by conducting early season dry burns.

"It's actually the biggest carbon offset program of any airline in the world," Joyce says.

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.