Qantas will revisit non-stop Project Sunrise flights at end of 2021

Non-stop flights to London, Paris and New York will have ever stronger appeal in the post-pandemic era, Qantas says.

By David Flynn, January 13 2021
Qantas will revisit non-stop Project Sunrise flights at end of 2021

Qantas plans to "revisit" its non-stop Project Sunrise flights at the end of 2021, with airline CEO Alan Joyce expecting that direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London, New York and Paris will have even more appeal in the post-COVID world.

After years of planning an ambitious network of 18-20 hour flights, and working with Airbus on a special ultra-long range version of the A350-1000, Joyce says he was "within a couple of weeks of placing the order for the aircraft" when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

"But we're still very optimistic on that," Joyce remarked at today's Reuters Next online forum.

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

"At the end of 2021 we can revisit (Project Sunrise) and look at what's the appropriate time" to set things back in motion.

Qantas was set to place an order for up to 12 long-range Airbus A350-1000 jets.
Qantas was set to place an order for up to 12 long-range Airbus A350-1000 jets.

That will include taking on an initial fleet of up to 12 Airbus A350-1000s, which will be fitted with an extra fuel tank in order to tackle the globe-striding routes.

However, "we're obviously not going to put an order in until we see the international market recovering," Joyce cautioned, noting that he doesn't expect the airline's international traffic to return to 2019 levels until 2023-2024.

Ironically, this overlaps with the original timeline for the inaugural Project Sunrise flights, which were due to take wing in mid-2023 – so the new dawn of Project Sunrise may come at just the right moment.

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.

Joyce said that the airline's marathon Perth-London Boeing 787 flight, which has been suspended while Australia's borders remain closed but is now scheduled for a July 2021 restart – "was the best route on our network... with the highest customer satisfaction rating."

"We think we'll have the same dynamic on Sydney-London, Melbourne-London and Sydney-New York."

The Qantas Airbus A350s were also to mark the debut of new-design 'super first class' suites, business class and premium economy seats and even a wider economy seat with a few extra inches of legroom plus a dedicated stretching area "for exercise".

It was speculated that Qantas would order a second tranche of A350s to replace its Airbus A380 superjumbos towards the end of the 2020s as the double-decker jets headed for retirement.

Read more: The Qantas Airbus A350 is on hold for now, but not forever

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.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

In the end there may not be that much of a delay, as long as they can get an early production slot for a (late??) 2023 delivery, and I for one can’t wait. One stop from Canberra both coming and going. Via Perth (787) a little better than via Sydney for one of the legs though.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 125

ever the optimist is AJ!

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 612

I think a bold plan would be to kick flights off direct from Sydney in December 2021 or as soon as possible after that to both New York and London, that would nail competitors quick smart.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 266

There's a lead time of a few years between placing the order and getting the aircraft and starting the flights. Based on the original Project Sunrise schedule this was supposed to be March 2020 for the order and middle of 2023 for delivery and flights, so that's a bit more than three years. If we assume the same schedule this time then then even if Qantas restarted Sunrise and ordered the jets in late 2022 they wouldn't be flying until the end of 2025. Also has to be remembered that AJ has repeatedly said they won't be in a position to order those jets until the airline has "repaired its balance sheet", eg back in the black, and that will still be a few years away.

think Boeing lead time from order to delivery of aircraft, has been reduced dramatically

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 159

Which would be handy except that Qantas is not ordering a Boeing, in fact we have seen the wisdom of Qantas choosing a proven and existing aircraft in the A350 because Boeing is now not expected to deliver its first 777X to Emirates until 2023 or even later, and that's the 777-9, Qantas needed the 777-8 which is probably not going to see light of day until sometime well after 2025 if it arrives at all.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

UpUp it won't be 2021 as the planes have yet to be built yet. 2023 at the earliest if they can get an early manufacturing slot. But they wont be alone in wanting deliveries to resume.

upup

it would only appeal to SYD residents. No one is going to spend many hours getting to SYD to save a few hours, just like no one from BNE wants to fly anywhere via SYD.

BNE/SYD/LAX adds about 4.5 to 6 hours cf. BNE/LAX (1.5 hours to SYD, 2 hours min connect time-many want more, extra hour flying SYD/LAX cf. BNE/LAX).

Catch 22, is that Qantas will be only airline flying BNE/LAX nonstop with no Virgin & so some cheap fares BNE/SYD/LAX might appear cf. what will possibly be higher Qantas BNE/LAX fares due to no competition.

Even BNE/NAN/LAX might not have many cheap seats as Virgin probably won't be flying to NAN anytime soon (2 to 3 years maybe) & who wants to fly on that airline BNE/AKL/LAX especially when Kiwis can't get over fact they lost to Wallabies.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 11

Agree with that.  As a Brisbane resident I refuse to fly anywhere via SYD.  It just adds unnecessary hours and hassle to the trip.  Not going to happen.  I also personally like to stop somewhere in Asia en route to Europe, although would consider the non-stop LHR - BNE for the return - provided I was in business class.  I don't think I could contemplate non-stop to London in economy.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 186

Im not sure i can see BNE-LHR direct....

if SYD & MEL can have daily direct to LHR/JFK then surely BNE can have 2 to 4 per week, plus I would think both routes would be a little bit shorter from BNE, than SYD or MEL but can anyone say for sure ?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 455

BNE flyers deserve better.  MEL-LHR is via PER, so why not run SYD-LHR via BNE for boarding only?  Besides, SYD curfew might restrict slot convenience?

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 75

If the plane is going to make a stop somewhere, that defeats the purpose. I don't think ANYONE from Sydney is interested in a BNE "stopover".

FWIW, I'm not interested in a LONG non-stop smelly "fart", DVT inducing route direct to LHR anyway. I'd rather stop in the ME or SEA.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 612

I've done Singapore to Zurich with Swiss, with a 30 minute stop in Thailand? to pick up passengers, that wasn't a bad experience.

can't think of anything worse than stopping in ME, but SIN or HKG ok.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

Regular if the existing 787 continues Brisbane LA to New York then fine but perhaps via Sydney could be better than via LA with an AA connection, same for Melbourne.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 266

Initial flights would be from Sydney and Melbourne but Brisbane was also on the list for later. But I still maintain that despite the painful SYD transfer from domestic to international, once you get onto that SYD-LHR or SYD-JFK flight you've got all those 18 hours uninterrupted, and that's certainly better than the LAX stopover at least for New York. A lot of passengers will still want that stopover at Singapore en route to London and hopefully the A380s will be back and can allow that with an A330 BNE-SIN and then hopping onto the SYD-SIN-LHR A380. If the A380s don't come back then Qantas will either have to keep a Boeing 787-9 for SYD-SIN-LHR or give up the Singapore stopover option and only offer the non-stop Sunrise flight.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

QFP1 it may be better to use the 787 syd Perth London and A330s for Singapore only. I prefer the Perth stopover from Canberra over the others except perhaps for Melbourne and the first lounge.

no SYD is terrible airport for changing DOM to INT & v.v. Have seen plenty of people booked with 2 hour connect at SYD on way to USA miss their INT flight, so 3 hours is really need. Then add 90 min flight & extra hour flying, that's 5.5 hours extra each way.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

Regular LA is no better unless it is on the same plane. Even though it is a walk it is long and confusing one with a variable security queue. I do Sydney from Canberra all the time and never three hours I allow two and have an hour in the lounge

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 266

Everyone who is concerned about Brisbane, please note that BNE is included on the Project Sunrise route map. Obviously BNE will come third after SYD and MEL, and there's no way Qantas could fly all those routes with just "up to 12" A350s, but I would expect once we have SYD and MEL to London and New York there'd be more A350s bought to add Brisbane as a third AU port and Paris and maybe Frankfurt. BNE-LHR and BNE-NY might not be daily but that would depend on demand.

As far as the option of flying BNE-SYD and then nonstop to London or New York, SYD is of course the pits for transferring between domestic and international terminals but on the plus side a lot of passengers would have F lounge access which is always a nice way to start the trip, plus there is no need to stop at LAX and go through all the hassles of lining up for immigration, collecting and rechecking your bag, going back up through more security to re-enter airside etc. Once you get onto your QF1 to London or QF3 to New York, from Sydney, you have the whole 18 to 20 hours uninterrupted. Much better, well at least if you are in business or first!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 455

Thanks QFP1, really appreciated.  What's your considered view on the future of the A380s currently parked at Victorville?  That is, in what  circumstances/routes do you think they'd get re-activated (if ever again)?  Asking purely out of curiosity.  

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

Boeing Joyce has indicated that the 6 refurbished ones will probably come back for London and LA in 2023; and I would add probably from Sydney only and that’s about it. QFP1 may have a different take on it.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 266

Hi BT, I agree with the article's take on this, if they come back we might see just the six refurbished A380s and I think they would be assigned to SYD-SIN-LHR and SYD-LAX. I'm not sure there will be an appetite for SYD-DFW, especially once Sunrise offers non-stop to New York. I would not be surprised to see Qantas not return to DFW but have American Airlines launch SYD-DFW on a Boeing 787-9, which fits into its role as a Qantas partner and also feeds the AA hub at DFW.

As to what circumstances would see them get re-activated, this is only about one thing and that's demand. However that comes in two factors. There's overall worldwide demand across the whole Qantas international network, because the more that grows the more Qantas will find itself stretched with only the Boeing 787s to do serious long-haul flying, and as that picks up Qantas might have to look at bringing back the A380s because it simply won't have enough aircraft, it will need to keep the 787s on their own routes especially to the USA. And then there is the demand on former A380 routes such as London and LAX, which will resume on a Boeing 787 but if those flights show consistent growth then the only way to cater for the increased demand would be double-daily 787s, which comes back to Qantas not having enough 787s, or bringing back the A380s.

That's a good observation about the potential shortfall of 787s and how Qantas might have to bring back the A380s despite the significant capacity gap between them, eg 236 pax on the 787-9 and 485 pax on the A380. Jetstar was supposed to be getting rid of its Boeing 787-8s, I wonder if Qantas might pick those up, replace the seats with its own repaint to new livery of course and then put them onto regional flights to help stretch out the fleet even more, before the A380 comes back? The Jetstar 787s didn't have a crew rest so they can't do long-range but they could still do Asia and Honolulu for example.

08 Nov 2018

Total posts 2

How many slots dose Qantas hold at LHR? They used 2 but I think they had 4 but only 2 that aloud them to land before 06.00 UK time. They use to do a shuttle from LHR-MAN-LHR but these could have been BA slots. I think it was operated by local crew on a narrow body.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1265

John I think it has five with three leased to BA. It could have eventually (2025 or some such) three A350s (Syd Mel and Bris) and a Perth 787, and still have a spare. 

16 Nov 2018

Total posts 29

Don't think the union will be in the way now. Maybe pilots have realised flying is better than packing at Woolies. 

jason

you mean unionS

One is taking qantas to high court re jobkeeper payments

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 159

The union wasn't "in the way", the pilots had signed off on the Project Sunrise EBA which was the last hurdle before Qantas could put in the Airbus A350 order and make Sunrise a reality.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 116

Placing the order later will not make too much difference. There will be a lot of other airlines willing to give up some options on their build slots

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 266

There will be some airlines giving up their A350 slots, I think HK Airlines and some others cancelled their orders last month? But there are also airlines which have outstanding orders but delayed their deliveries until the worst of the COVID cash crunch has passed, so there could also be a bit of a logjam as Airbus begins to catch up with all those orders, because once demand is back to normal, which is expected to be 2023-2024 then airline will be wanting those A350s and fast, to cater for demand and also because their fuel efficiency will be better for finances going forward.

As a regular user (was) of flights between LHR - BNE - LHR. In the interim, can we have flights that only re-fuel in Asia, no getting off and on again? Therefore, no COVID risk! Seems sensible to me.

nekillim2020

thinking outside the box, why couldn't Jetstar send a B787 on a one stop route to USA mainland ?

Not Hawaii as that involves entering USA, claiming bags & getting back on.

There must be somewhere they could stop that's better logistically than Hawaii for passengers going onto mainland USA, such as some Pacific Island such as Samoa or Tahiti, as long as they had onward traffic rights. Small Jetstar crew base, so just like current air nz flights to mainland USA are all via Hawaii.

or an A330 could do it.

Could be a splash & dash with fast turn at Pacific port.

or could even have 3 aircraft arriving at roughly the same time at Pacific midpoint, to then fly to 3 ports in USA mainland ?

Wouldn't need to be daily & could supplement nonstops to LAX, SFO etc.

There are surely going to be some new routes or old routes with a stop somewhere, before things get back to 2019 levels.

Maybe Qantas can finally work in with Fiji Airways, which I think they still own just less than 1/2.

30 May 2018

Total posts 6

Ill take a stopover in asia thanks! 20 hours in on a plne no thanks!

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 77

This discussion reminds me of Mrs Beeton's rabbit stew - first have a rabbit! Non-stop to London and/or New York, first have your plane. That's the company's choice, and whether we like it or not, it comes down to cost. Then there's covid19. We're all hoping for a successful vaccine. Will what's currently available, and what's in the research/development pipeline, do the job providing full protection from this horror? If not, who will take the risk to go to the UK and/or USA with what's happening in both places? I who loved getting on a big plane and leaving the country am absolutely terrified of the thought now. Which plane, where the stop-overs are, whether the flight is non-stop pale into insignificance compared with one's health. I may be in the minority with this attitude to flying, but each to his/her own. I'm staying home, physically distancing, and wearing a mask when out.

08 May 2020

Total posts 60

No Thanks to direct non stop flights to London.  1st I don't travel to london anyway when I travel to Europe and I absolutely avoiding Heathrow, Frankfurt and Milan.  I have that One stopover mostly in Singapore and will make it probably quicker than having a connection flight within Europe after arriving in London after a Non stop flight.


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