Given the fierce rivalry between Qantas and Virgin Australia, it should have been predictable that once Virgin CEO John Borghetti voiced his confidence in a supersonic future, Alan Joyce would share a contrary view.
“We would have been very keen to have supersonic aircraft, but there is a trade-off between supersonic speed and distance,” Joyce remarked to Australian Business Traveller in Seattle ahead of last week’s delivery of the airline’s first Boeing 787.
“But the problems when Qantas looked at supersonic flight in the 1960s are problems that have still not been overcome.”
One challenge was environmental concerns over the impact of the sonic boom, “which most communities have banned and so you can only fly over water,” Joyce says.
That said, Qantas worked with the Australian government to carve out several ‘supersonic flight corridors’ for the Boeing 2707 across Australia which could link the east coast capitals to Singapore, where a connecting British Airways supersonic flight would take passengers on to London via Bahrain.
Another problem was the limited range of the fuel-guzzling jets: “Concorde itself only barely got to the United States from Europe,” Joyce reflects.
“When Boeing looked at the Sonic Cruiser we were still keen on having aircraft that fly faster. But while you’d love to have the speed and the distance, I think that distance is where the game is for Qantas."
Distance is of course the new frontier for Qantas, with the trumpeted non-stop Boeing 787-9 service from Perth to London – and potentially Paris and Germany – a stepping stone to direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London and New York.
David Flynn visited Seattle as a guest of Qantas