Qantas set to greenlight 'Project Sunrise', first flights in 2023

Buckle up for 18-21 hour non-stop flights to London, New York and Paris...

By David Flynn , February 14 2020
Qantas set to greenlight 'Project Sunrise', first flights in 2023

Qantas is set to push the big green ‘go’ button on Project Sunrise and launch what will be the world’s longest flights: epic 18-21 hour non-stop treks from Sydney and Melbourne to New York, London and Paris.

Facing an Airbus-imposed deadline of March 31 to lock down its tentative order for up to a dozen globe-striding A350-1000 jets, and frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations with the Australian & International Pilots Association over a new enterprise bargain agreement, the airline has said that Project Sunrise will go ahead with or without union support.

Qantas would instead strike a deal directly with individual pilots or, if necessary, create a new non-union “employment entity” of specialist crews dedicated to the Sunrise flights, Qantas International CEO Tino La Spina told Qantas pilots in an email sent late Thursday.

"It’s become clear that Sunrise is something that our international business needs to maximise its long-term success and defend its competitive position,” La Spina wrote.

"If we are unable to secure a new long-haul EBA10 with our pilots that meets the Sunrise investment case within Airbus’ timeframe, we will be left with no viable alternative but to have Sunrise flying performed by a new employment entity that can provide the cost base we need for this important business opportunity.”

This would allow the airline to begin Project Sunrise flights “in the first half of calendar 2023,” the airline has said.

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

London calling (also Paris and Frankfurt)

While London and New York are considered flagship destinations, Paris and Frankfurt are also on the non-stop list, along with Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro.

Qantas now “has daily rights to Paris”, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has said, and that consistency is paramount for bringing travellers to The City of Light.

“(The) last time we were in Paris we only could do three days a week, which made it sub-economical and meant that we weren’t attracting the business market, but now that has changed,” Joyce told Executive Traveller on the delivery flight of Qantas’ first Boeing 787-9 in October 2017.

Likewise, “Germany is still a big market and it's been hard for us in the past when we were flying through a hub, so the opportunity there is actually quite real.”

The Kangaroo Route, now in three flavours

However, Joyce says that Qantas' non-stop Boeing 787-9 flights between Perth and London will continue to run alongside the east coast-focused Sunrise flights.

"What we’re seeing, which is really encouraging, is how well Perth-London is doing, particularly with our passenger traffic. 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".

Airbus will fit the Project Sunrise A350s with an extra fuel tank to deliver globe-striding range.
Airbus will fit the Project Sunrise A350s with an extra fuel tank to deliver globe-striding range.

Joyce remains keen on extending its Perth-based non-stop network to Paris and 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 suggests.

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."

Read more: Qantas' three-pronged Europe strategy: Sunrise, Singapore and Emirates

'Super first class' for Project Sunrise jets

As previously reported by Executive Traveller, the Project Sunrise A350s will carry around 300 passengers, some of whom will be cocooned in what Joyce describes as a "super first class" suite, with a hint that the design could include sliding doors – a flourish already adopted by many airlines for not only first class but some leading-edge business class suites.

"Given the nature of the routes there is definitely a market for first class," Joyce has told Executive Traveller. "We think it's going to be a super first class, something that is a lot better than any product we’ve ever put in the air," he added.

Could this 'super first class' include privacy doors? "I want to save that for another announcement some day," Joyce teased.

The Airbus A350s are expected to have a relatively small first class cabin, following a global trend towards reducing the number of first class suites, sometimes purely to rationalise against reduced demand and in other instances to increase the physical footprint of each suite.

For Project Sunrise business class, Qatar Airways' Qsuites will be the seats to beat.
For Project Sunrise business class, Qatar Airways' Qsuites will be the seats to beat.

Qantas has already completed "a high-level design of what our cabins would look like," Joyce has previously said, with the aim of "redefining" all four travel classes. The airline has also been consulting with seatmakers on their very latest models, including yet-to-be-released concepts, as candidates for when the first Project Sunrise flights take wing.

Nestled behind first class will be all-new business class seats – where the bar has already been set high by the superb Qsuites of fellow Oneworld member Qatar Airways – and further back, fresh takes on premium economy and economy, the latter of which will also have extra leg-room compared to today's economy seats.

"There'll be more legroom, and a special area for exercise," Joyce says. "That's all part of the proposition, this aircraft is going to be designed for 19-20 hour flights."

Qantas' intent to fit all four travel classes to its Project Sunrise fleet contrasts with Singapore Airlines' decision to kit out its long-legged Airbus A350 jets with only business class and premium economy.

Not just for the ultra-long haul

But the Project Sunrise jets won't be solely dedicated to those record-breaking non-stop journeys – they'll also take on relatively shorter and more conventional routes to Los Angeles and Asia, especially as Qantas retires its Airbus A380s towards the end of the next decade.

“What we have to have is an aircraft that not only can fly Sydney-London and Sydney-New York, and Melbourne-London and Melbourne-New York, but also can be rotated to do Sydney-Hong Kong and Sydney-LA," Joyce has told Executive TravellerThis is driving Qantas towards a full four-cabin configuration “so that means all of the seats have to be usable for those routes."

The Project Sunrise jets will also come with superfast WiFi capable of streaming HD video, using similar high-speed satellite technology as Qantas' domestic fleet.

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.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 316

I'll believe it when I see it!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 42

Just like pilots making their own coffee

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 254

Brilliant to hear!

Qantas has really turned around from the gloomy days 5+ years ago. Unions will always be resistant to change however the one thing Alan Joyce and the leadership team has proven is that they will make the important big decisions when they need to be made.

As a passenger it's been great to see some innovation in aircraft, product and route network over the last 5 years (apart from the not giving the new premium seats a little more leg room ;) - even if some of those decisions didn't pass the test of time, at least they have tried. There'll be a few toys thrown out of the pram but it I'm confident everyone will come round the table and agree a deal eventually.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 69

I do think you can have sometimes where staff do make a lot while the airline is struggling, but you can also have the opposite where the airline is making out like a bandit and the pilots who accept a deal in leaner times get left out.

I'd prefer they follow airlines like Delta and have a profit sharing component as I think this would better balance the various peaks and troughs.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Mar 2019

Total posts 14

God forbid staff may be concerned about working for 20+ hours on a regular basis.

06 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

I'll happen.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 994

I would like to know what Joyce is talking about with the “has daily rights to Paris” quote, because as far as I can tell, the Australia-France air service agreement hasn't changed and under that agreement, the frequency allowed to mainland France is based on the amount of seats on the aircraft doing the flying, with the 236 seats of the QF 787-9 config allowed 6/weekly.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Himeno he has said this a couple of times so the access rights may have changed with the codeshare arrangement.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 994

Codeshares to mainland France are also limited under the current ASA. All of which are currently held by QF/VA.

Yes, he has said that a number of times. There has also been no indication of the ASA having changed to allow such a thing (unless he intends to have a 737/A320 fly the route). Either he is talking about codeshares, which already exists with the AF arrangement, and isn't a QF service as his statements would suggest, or the ASA has changed, which again, there is no indication to show that it has been.

Bra
Bra

QF

11 May 2015

Total posts 26

Having done my fair share of SQ SIN-EWR-SIN and TG BKK-JFK-BKK non stop flights in A340-500 aircraft, I wont be joining any of the Sunrise flights - simply too long. And certainly would not fly any ULR flights if these dont have 2 Captains and 2 First Officers. If its 1 Captain, 1 FO and 2 Second Officers then forget it.

On one of my TG JFK-BKK flights we were held for 4 holding patterns to the North West of BKK due to thunderstorms, followed by an approach in turbulence and poor visibility. This after about 18 hours flying. You need a reasonably fresh crew up front in these circumstances - not a weary Captain and FO.

I have been in the aviation industry all my life (not in the airlines) and have seen so many things go wrong, some ending in disaster. So QF I suggest you get the right crew mix, and not by hiring cheap overseas pilots. And CASA should insist on this. Remember the old aviation saying - If you think saving money on safety is a good idea, try having an accident.

The scaremongering about ‘foreign pilots' flys around every time there's a whiff of negotiations happening. It's highly unlikely Qantas would change it's recruitment practices to seek overseas pilots - not that I fear Qantas would drop safety standards if they did.

I think much more likely they would have a wave of interest from other experienced Australian pilots (VA, REX, RAAF) who traditionally would have to start at the bottom of the hierarchy - as under the current qantas pilot EBA and work their way up in rank regardless of years of flying, and potentially would be able to skip this completely under a new agreement.

Qantas have earned a great safety reputation for a reason and I can't see that coming secondary any time soon.

Seriously I don't know what your on about here, first off I'm sure Qantas know what their doing re these long flights and I'm sure they will be having the adequate and correct crew mamebrs on board in the cockpit, let's not forget these long distance flights for Qantas is quite new as in direct 18 or so hour flights without stopping, Singapore Airlines have been doing these flights for a long time, years ago they were doing Singapore to New York on the Airbus A340 buy stopped it due to fuel costs of running the A340, now it's on their new Airbus A350. You also mentioned above overseas cheap pilots, lol really. C'mon please give me a break, most if not all airline pilots are very highly trained and not only that alot of pilots from overseas airlines do their training here in Australia. The UK pilots are very highly trained, so are Emirates, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, etc. Years ago when Ansett Airlines had that big strike and they had to recruit foreign pilots I didn't hear of any Ansett jets crashing, did you.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 379

I've never understood this fetish that some people have with doors on F and J suites. They simply add weight to the aircraft for no meaningful purpose. Unless the walls go all the way up to the ceiling, people just look over the top of the doors anyway!

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 21

Since Joyce is hellbent on bypassing pilot agreement, he has embarked on a dangerous path. He's shown that he is willing to ignore safety concerns from experienced and professional staff for the sake of his ambitions. What's next?

I pay my fare for safe passage to my destination, and I expect it to be be so.

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 143

Qantas have always been pig-headed in the IR domain. Their latest little (and I mean LITTLE) media release via Fairfax was much ado about nothing and more likely using it as a veiled threat or bulletin board in their IR scare-mongering. Wage growth has been backwards in Australia for many years so I have no issue in the pilots being as tough to Qantas as Qantas is to all its employees - at least those who are left since they've contracted out almost everything on two (or four) legs. I would hope that if I was on a ‘project sunrise' flight I had more than 1 x Capt, 1 x First Officer and 2 x 2nd Officers crewing the thing!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 34

I find this very exciting. However I'd really like to see QF return to having a ADL - SIN flight..... the extra hours it take to get to Asia is a pain. As a QF fanboy I try to stay loyal - but sometimes that extra 3 or so hours it takes to travel via MEL/SYD/BNE is frustrating. Being able to get to Europe as a one stop would be wonderful.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 245

Well you'll be soon able to 1 stop it to London via Melbourne or Sydney ;)

15 Jul 2016

Total posts 5

Qantas a321xlr?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 241

The chances of ADL-SIn being restored may probably be when the narrow body A321XLR comes online in QF mainline colours (after the XLR allocation for JQ & affiliates has been delivered).

Virgin Australia - Platinum

26 Jun 2011

Total posts 75

You can "1 stop" vis PER!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

SimonFrost the Perth London gives Adelaide like Canberra a one stop option.

Any more room for Qantas at London Heathrow for all these flights ?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Latte they have four slots of which they now use two. They have three years to get one or both from BA

Any other airlines have an exercise area onboard ?

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 45

Though I'll never willingly fly these QF ultra long hauls, I await with interest the all new 'super first class', purely out of avgeek curiosity. I like QF, but I still have a sinking feeling the hype won't even come close to matching the hard product. As is frequently the case with past PR announcements (i.e. the premium economy seat).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 303

How many slot do QF currently own at Heathrow, including the one they currently lease to BA? I thought is was 4, but not 100% sure.

Also, under the above plans, do they need another slot to achieve this?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 226

Nope, 1 X Perth, 1 X Singapore, 1 X Sydney, 1 X Melbourne = 4 daily slots utilised

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Frequent flier there are only 2 slots as the Singapore Melbourne and Sydney merge into one syd-singapore-london with melbourne transferring at singapore onto the sydney origin flight. Perth is the other one.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 226

Yeah Patrick, that is exactly my point....

The Sunrise flights would make up those Sydney and Melbourne flights....

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Sorry frequent I mis-read you. I am sure the via Singapore will go to a 78-9 otherwise it is a huge increase in capacity.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

27 Jun 2019

Total posts 9

They currently own 4 slots at Heathrow with x2 leased to BA I believe. So all they have to do is can the lease with BA and those x2 slots would be used for Sydney and Melbourne to Heathrow.

If they wanted to expand from Brisbane in future, they will have to buy a slot from someone else.

I would like to try these new PS flights out but with a 20 or 30% fare increase for them, on top of the fact that QF aren't the most competitive when it comes to fares nowadays anyway, I wouldn't be able to justify paying an extra just for a non-stop. Granted i've got 3 years to get rich mind you!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

I find that with the Perth London flight there is not a huge premium and I expect that will be the case on the new flights as well except for peak times. The via Singapore route may be squeezed and go to 78-9 though.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 254

Think flying the non-stop option is fantastic and if Joyce wants to create a union for pilots separately then why not! Change the industry a bit and others will follow!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Despite the bluster he (Joyce) has three years to strike a deal with the pilots before the planes arrive, so this is merely the first of many shots across the bow.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 310

Interesting that AJ talks about having the best new first class on these ULH flights, so my question is why not have the best first class right now on Qantas? I recall reading a recent article here by Brandon L giving thumbs up on QF A380 First product but thumbs down on F&B which most people agreed with.

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 21

Unfortunately there are few posters thinking about the pilots and crew. Aircrew are humans too, who have to endure the ultra long haul conditions in getting passengers to their destination safely. They don't have the luxury of comfortable beds, and are on duty at the beck and call of passengers for the duration of the flight. They work professionally even when dog tired and passengers are not. Breaks are not what they seem, and in the case of pilots, they are the link between safe arrival and not.

Project Sunrise is a bad idea, no matter how convenient it seems for some, and even if there is agreement from SOME pilots, fatigue errors are just around the corner.

In air travel, safely is everything.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Aeromedic, by the way not all crew are ‘on duty at beck and call'. They are rostered to be on call and in my observation of the 17 hour Dallas flight mid flight there is only one or two at each galley rather than the normal four. So the others are resting in beds (probably more comfortable than the lie flat passenger seats.) The pilots are the same. I have seen Emirates pilots come down from their rest area in track (sleep?) suits. There will be all four pilots for take off and landing.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 123

I could see the risk of plane crashes increasing on these qantas flights due to high fatigue. One fatal plane crash would ruin qantas' reputation for good.

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 21

patrickk,

I understand the duty arrangements, but the point is that the longer term effect of 20+ ULH on all crew will be damaging, and mistakes will be made. We can only hope that if this inane idea gets going, that there is not a tragedy as a result.

There's a difference between the impact on passengers and the impact on crew.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 154

You would surely have to have a very good reason to want to go these ultra long haul flights

For example the Perth to London Business class is currently $7000. If you add the " premium " suggested of 25% ( average ) it makes it an extra $1750 bringing it to $8750 just for flying direct. One can only imagine what the surcharge on the ultra long flights would be , probably very expensive indeed.

Apart from the physical aspect of such a long tiring flight the cost increase is ridiculous.

I would much rather go via Singapore , have a couple of hours to stretch my legs , breath normal air , have a nice shower , have some time in the lounge, save $1750 and arrive quite fresh and relaxed.

These direct flights might be OK for some but I would not go on one even if it were 50% cheaper but could stretch the friendship and go if it were free.

Otherwise NO WAY!!!

8750 1750

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

I just checked Canberra London business class flights and for what it is worth the via Perth flight is cheaper by $10 than via Singapore and the same for Perth originating flights so there is no non-stop surcharge. I expect there won't be one for Syd or Melbourne non-stops. The savings are in mid point landing fees and some terminal costs.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 154

Patrickk. Not sure your info is correct.

Qantas has quoted in the above article “ 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".

Thats what I based my comments on.

Either way QF can stick their ultra long haul as for the reasons stated it's a stopover in Singapore for me if going to Europe.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Rod h those prices I quoted are for a dummy booking I did today ex Perth. Very easy to check. The 20-30% is a bit of marketing spin. This is three years away but they will try higher prices but like Perth London they will settle back to being much the same or as the Perth booking show slightly cheaper. The yield computers and corporate account contracts set the price not marketing. My prediction is that within a year or two the price will be much the same but non stop flights will be full with no sale fares.

16 Feb 2020

Total posts 2

I am constantly amazed that a company such as Qantas puts so much effort into something like this when they cannot even answer reservation calls within 2 hours. Not all customers are Qantas Frequent Flyers but have flights booked with them through One World Partners.

If you can't get the basics right and outsource everything for the cheapest cost, how can we be sure you are not as misguided and penny pinching when it comes to maintenance. These are long flights for companies that nickle and dime every expense apart from Executive salaries. If the quality of outsourced maintenance matches that of our their South African call centre, it is only a matter of time before a serious incident occurs. You cannot hang up and dial again when your aircraft is plummeting towards the earth. Not even Neil Perry and some marketing spin can save you then....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 154

patrickk.

What you say may well turn out to be the case but at the moment the info we have from Qantas as quoted is a 20 - 30 % premium so the rest is pure conjecture. Not quite sure how the premium quoted could be regarded as a marketing spin when its an increase! If it were a decrease then yes I could take it as a marketing spin.

Either way it's most definitely not for me.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 951

Rod the Perth London flight also claimed they could charge a premium when it started but after a while it fell back from 10% to 0%. Yield is far more important than price. A 30% premium on 60% full flight is beaten yield wise by the same price on a full flight. Marketing folk like to promote the economic benefits without checking the sums or experience. The premium will be there for a few months and that will be it. When the price comes back I will be on it. Love Perth to London and Sydney to Dallas, the promise of one less stopover sells it for me.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 154

patrickk. I hope you enjoy your Perth - London or Sydney- Dallas if and when they drop the premiums quoted.

One thing for sure I will never meet you on one of those flights that's for sure.

I hate very long flights so won't under any circumstance be on one.

Been flying for 60 years now , nearly 30 of them in seat OA and have experienced very long haul flights and they are no longer for me!

Feel infinitely better with a 2-3 hr stopover.

Rod H i agree with you why pay so much more for QF for bad service poor design seats small seating arrangements terrible food for the long haul???????????????????

SQ option way far better and remember AJ is talking early 2023 i reckon it will be 20225

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 269

I'm not a QF flyer, and we don't know what the market will be like in 2023 (though the decision is being made now), but is there really demand for 3 (potentially 4) daily non-stop and 1 direct QF flights from Australia to LHR?


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