Qantas CEO dials back Project Sunrise expectations

By David Flynn, November 14 2018

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline will choose between the Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 777X within the next 12 months as partners in its non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London and New York.

However, regardless of the jet chosen to make those marathon 18-20 hour treks, there’s no longer an expectation that it will carry the airline’s previously-stated goal of 300+ passengers across four classes.

“Our belief is [ultra-long-haul flights are] not going to be full passenger payload and freight, but there is sufficient capability to make it commercially viable,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has told The South China Morning Post.

Joyce has until now been bullish on expectations that the non-stop flights would have over 300 seats spread across first class, business class, premium economy and economy.

Read: Qantas wants four classes, 300+ passengers in ultra-long range jets

The airline is already talking with seatmakers regarding new designs for the ultra-long flights “to see what kind of a step change we can create for our customers,” Qantas International CEO Alison Webster told Australia Business Traveller earlier this year.

However, this rethink could see the Project Sunrise jets shaped along the premium-heavy lines of the Boeing 787s and place more emphasis on premium seating which attracts higher fares.

As a yardstick, Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350-900ULR which flies 18 non-stop hours from Singapore to New York sports a two-class layout of just 67 business class seats and 94 premium economy seats, and no economy class, compared to the three classes and 253 seats of the airline’s standard A350.

Joyce said that Airbus and Boeing "have made really good progress from where we started in the capabilities of the critical missions from Melbourne and Sydney to London and New York” and that Qantas is aiming to place a new order by the end of 2019 “for delivery between 2022 and 2023.”

He also allowed that the ultra-long range Project Sunrise jets “could be a good aircraft, if the product and the price is right”, to replace the airline’s flagship Airbus A380s.

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.

songman

songman

20 Dec 2011

Total posts 14

Seems to be a sensible adjustment of expectations. The 4 class, 300 pax requirement always sounded like a stretch goal designed to push the airlines, without any real expectation that it would happen.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 535

Both OEMs will have told QF that the capacity to fly this number of pax such a distance is beyond their current capabilities and they don't see enough demand to justify the development of a new type.

Realistically, the market for ULR aircraft is quite small with aircraft such as the 772LR and A345 both having been commercial failures. Airbus minimised the changes it incorporated into the A359ULR and would look to do the same with the A35JULR. Boeing is in a slightly different situation with the heavier 778X. It is probably more capable "out of the box" but its weight means it will be very expensive to operate over shorter distances so fleet flexibility is reduced.

I can't see how a "Sunrise" aircraft carrying under 300 pax can realistically replace the A380s unless QF is planning to reduce Economy class significantly and move those pax onto JetStar. It is possible that buying a similar type to their Sunrise plane such as standard A35J or 779 may fill the bill of ultimately replacing A380s with the savings of cross-crewing and shared rotables between Sunrise and standard planes making the financials add up. Once again, this would involve a reduction in Economy class and potentially the elimination of a separate First Class cabin.

Carrots

Carrots

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Oct 2017

Total posts 30

Ground Control to Major Tom: Welcome back to planet earth!

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

It'll probably be a four-class seat count in the high 200s (260 to 280 probably, like SQ's 4-class 777-300ERs). It doesn't need to be 300+ in order to be workable.

Smaller jet also has the advantage of being more easily filled.

Volkov

Volkov

24 Apr 2016

Total posts 23

250 seat in 3 or 4 class on A350-900ULR sounds more realistic to me.

To this date, all Ultra Long-haul flights is long and thin routes. No way they could fill 300+ seat on each flights.

In terms of range restrictions, all they could do is to do premium heavy configurations and carry less pax. Something alongside 8F, 40C 40P and like 160Y.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 535

That sounds too much for the capabilities of the current A359ULR. It is basically the same capacity as SQ's current normal A359s and way more than SQ's current ULR config. Did you mean the A350-1000ULR?

Nevertheless, I would expect QF to be much more premium heavy than the mix you suggest with a much bigger J cabin and a much smaller Y cabin.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 403

As they said it will be a A350-1000 which will push it up to around 280

daniesut

daniesut

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Sep 2016

Total posts 13

As expected - "4 classes with relaxation areas in the cargo hold"....was only a few months ago, now it sounds like something closer to the SG model for SG to NY on the 350ULR

no way they will have 4 classes, First is dead for QF.....

Ultra long haul is a very narrow customer segment - business travel, etc.....your not getting families on school holidays spending 19+ hours in coach.....

habui

habui

19 May 2015

Total posts 22

Just make sure you put in enough toilets. Even more so if you're going to be handing out PJ's.

crwilkins

crwilkins

Qantas

02 May 2016

Total posts 35

Can’t blame AJ and QF for wanting to push the manufacturers to try and get 300pax, but I just can’t see the A350 getting there, I can’t see QF going as light as SQ do on the SG/NY A350. I believe they will choose 777X to get 250+ pax

Pcoder

Pcoder

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 45

It sounds more like the a350-1000ulr too me as the 777-8 is probably too heavy for the shorter routes it wants to also use it for and although the A350 could probably get close to the 300 mark with the 319t variant, it might be a bit too close for comfort.

whoppersandwich

whoppersandwich

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2017

Total posts 41

778 is the only platform that currently has the numbers to perform the role Qantas is after.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 403

The A350-1000 is the other one that has those numbers as has been mentioned.

crwilkins

crwilkins

Qantas

02 May 2016

Total posts 35

Both aircraft are close but seems to me the A350-1000 will be range challenged against the 778, obviously a lot depends on final configuration and how much they want to put in the belly, for Airbus it seems the 359 is the best option as SQ are doing but the pax count will be too low for QF IMO. AJ may relax the 300 pax req but I’m sure he will still want to be close

wdeguara

wdeguara

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 89

18-20 hours in an Economy class seat was never a good idea in the first place.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 535

...espacially in a 10 abreast 777!!!!

Eli

Eli

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 90

He needs to dial it back to "Project Still Stopping in SIN" until they allow supersonic flights at an "economical" price point for all.

john wayne

john wayne

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 21

The only reason PER-LHR is doing so well is because all n eutral bookings to Heathrow get channelled thru Perth. Not a true indication of desire to do such long sectors

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 403

John as has been mentioned 60% originate in Perth and others like me choose it as it is one of many options offered and it suits me from Canberra better. Two easy stops going and one stop coming back. Perth is a good stop for a refuel. Small easy airport to get around.

john wayne

john wayne

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 21

I certainly see your point Patrickk and agree with you. However, even on those numbers of 60% captive Perthites on the aircraft, it certainly is no great feat of salesmanship to put the other handful of people on there.

whoppersandwich

whoppersandwich

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2017

Total posts 41

Yup, it almost feels like QF researched the route and figured it out before!

Luke49

Luke49

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

It seems something has changed somewhere along the lines.

Qantas has found out customers don’t want to travel economy for that long.

Or Airbus and Boeing are not modifying any aircraft. A359ULR or 777-8.

Take your pick.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 403

Luke it is clear that airbus is offering the A350-1000.

Markspark

Markspark

16 Dec 2016

Total posts 28

There is nothing wrong with Qantas pushing the manufacturers. It annoys me that everyone on here is an expert on what the future will hold. Qantas has always been innovative and direct services as an addition to their current stopover services is something a lot of Aussies (including me) would cheer at. Aviation is growing and changing and I think it is good for Australia to push for technology that makes the world that bit closer. Getting off soapbox now...

chap6595

chap6595

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2015

Total posts 51

Would Qantas go with 777x as they share a common type rating rather than having a large 787 fleet and a a350 fleet??

Timmy22bc

Timmy22bc

18 Oct 2015

Total posts 34

Finally a good decision is made in relation to this. Joyce was always dreaming when he said 300! The state of the rest rooms & crew fatigue would have been horrendous at the end of such a journey, particular when Qantas manage both terribly.

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 159

I have a feeling that Qantas could go for the B778 with 3 class seating 250-280 passengers to have flight deck commonality with the B789. What I think Alan Joyce wants is a B778er for 3 class operation.

The B778 is planned for 365 passengers in 2 class configuration.

Traveller14

Traveller14

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

QF received a lot of free publicity for this. Embarrassing it is reducing expectations. Media is gullible even though QF (and JQ) only carry about one in four international passengers in and out of Australia.

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