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.