Qantas says that it will retain direct flights between Perth and London, even if plans for non-stop Project Sunrise flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London get the green light.
The airline expects to make "a final go/no go decision" in March 2020, pending negotiation with its pilots and regulatory approval by the Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
“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 London and New York to the east coast of Australia," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
But those marathon Airbus A350-1000 flights won't come at the expense of Perth-London's Boeing 787-9 service.
"What we’re seeing, which is really encouraging, is how well Perth-London is doing, particularly with our passenger traffic," Joyce told Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the IATA aviation conference, held in Seoul in June 2019. "Over 75% originates or terminates in Perth for that flight."
"So what that has shown is that we can do Project Sunrise in addition – we wouldn’t take Perth-London out."
This would see Qantas serving up the Kangaroo Route in three flavours:
- the non-stop Boeing 787-9 from Perth to London (with the option for Melbourne-based travellers to begin this with a domestic Melbourne-Perth leg)
- the long-range Airbus A350-1000 Project Sunrise fleet flying non-stop from Sydney, Melbourne and potentially Brisbane to London
- the Airbus A380 superjumbo from Sydney to London via Singapore
Fares on the two non-stop routes would be priced higher than flights involving a Singapore stopover, based on their appeal to time-pressed travellers – Qantas has suggested the Project Sunrise services will carry a premium of "20 to 30 per cent".
Joyce remains keen on extending its Perth-based non-stop network to Paris and even Frankfurt, provided the airline can settle its ongoing dispute with Perth Airport over fees for access to the runways and other airport infrastructure.
“Today, we would be in the process of preparing for further services out of Perth into Europe – we would be ordering aircraft to do Perth to Paris, which would be the next one on our list, except for the fact that there’s a dispute with Perth Airport," Joyce said.
As it happens, Paris and Frankfurt are also Project Sunrise destinations, "so there’s a possibility with Paris and Frankfurt where you could have both an east coast and a west coast operation."
Additional reporting by Chris Chamberlin