Passengers on Qantas' non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York could while away the 18-20 hour journey at a sky-high cafe, exercising in a mini-gym or tuning out in "virtual reality relaxation zones".
Those are some of the ideas on a shortlist drawn up for the airline's ambitious Project Sunrise program, which aims to launch the world's longest flights in 2022.
However, the railway-style bunk beds talked up by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce may not eventuate, with Joyce previously dialling back earlier expectations that the ultra-long range jets would carry "a full load" of over 300 passengers in four travel classes.
Passenger research and focus groups conducted by Qantas is now being fed into the Project Sunrise think tank as the airline readies its decision on which jet – the Airbus A350-1000 or Boeing 777X – will undertake the globe-striding flights, which are also planned to extend to Capetown and Rio de Janeiro.
Not surprisingly, the airline says that "health and wellness are the top trends coming through all research" – although the observation of "a strong focus on mindfulness" sounds less like the words of a passenger than a PR spinner.
None the less, Qantas' report provides the clearest indication yet of how travellers can expect to escape seat-bound monotony on the marathon flights.
According to Qantas, one of the top suggestions for the Project Sunrise jets was space for exercising, ranging from gentle stretching to help promote circulation and minimise the risk of DVT, to "stationary bikes and rowing machines installed in dedicated exercise zones."
Also on the list: an inflight cafe offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including wine, mocktails, fresh juices and herbal teas, along with snacks.
Both of these could be offered 'below decks' in the aircraft's cargo hold, based on a concept developed by Airbus and also floated by Alan Joyce.
Whatever form they take, the task of turning thought bubbles into realities at 30,000 feet will fall to Qantas Industrial Designer David Caon, who says that Project Sunrise is pushing the boundaries of product innovation.
"Customers are sharing some incredibly imaginative ideas, which is an exciting challenge and helps us to think outside of the box to redefine the ultra-long-haul experience," he reflects.
”Bringing some of these concepts to life will involve an entire rethink around how to be clever about use of all cabin space and what is practically possible," Caon says, adding that "it may well involve incorporating design elements never before seen on commercial aircraft.”
Qantas International CEO Alison Webster echoes those notions, saying "our job now is to determine where the most demand is and create this cabin in a way that makes it both affordable for customers and commercially viable for the airline."
Webster is also scouting around for "next-generation" designs for premium economy and economy class seating the Project Sunrise, and there's no doubt that all-new business class seats and potentially first class suites would aim to create "a step change" in the flying experience, as Webster previously told Australian Business Traveller.
Interestingly, Qantas' list of the top five requests of would-be Project Sunrise passengers seemingly didn't include the bunk beds which Joyce described as an "out there" idea that could never the less create "a new class" of travel.
Qantas is also looking into a "separation of experience at different stages of a long-haul flight", where passengers can choose to be social or “zone out with either virtual reality relaxation zones (or) audio mindfulness experiences."
There's also the matter of practical execution. For example, would the cafe be a walk-up affair or have some seating, similar to what Qantas plans for its new Airbus A380 business class lounges?
And if there was seating, would this be reserved for business class passengers, to prevent passengers flying in economy from swapping their more cramped seats for a cafe bench for a large part of the flight?
No doubt more will be revealed as Qantas continues its Dance of the Seven 'Project Sunrise' Veils over the coming months.