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The planes that will operate Qantas’ ultra-long range flights from Sydney and Melbourne to faraway destinations such as London and New York could have drastically different interiors to today’s jets.
In a speech in London today to The Aviation Club UK, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline is considering a 'sleeping berth' cabin class with dedicated exercise areas to help battle the fatigue of a non-stop 20 hour flight.
But there’s a twist: the new train-like berths and exercise zone would be located in the cargo area beneath the main deck.
"One of the concepts that we have is maybe if we're not carrying freight you do something lower where cargo is on the aircraft, do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?” Joyce posed.
“Could some of the freight areas we may not use be used as an exercise area? Could they be used for berths for people to sleep in? Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft?”
Joyce admitted these were “out there” ideas but said "there's a lot of 'out there' thinking that's going on.”
Qantas has already put the idea to Airbus and Boeing, who are both in the running to build the globe-striding jets which would be needed to run what could be the world’s longest flights.
There is speculation that the jets may not be able to carry a full load of passengers and cargo, and that some of this cargo space may be used for the above purposes.
Referring to Airbus and Boeing, he said “both manufacturers have aircraft that our engineers are working with…to tweak the aircraft as necessary to get within that range and we’re getting closer all the time.”
“It is also about getting an aircraft that not only can do Sydney-London, but at the same time the same aircraft is capable of being redirected to Sydney-Hong Kong or Sydney Singapore.”
“It can’t be too heavy, it can’t be specialised too much so it’s not feasible elsewhere. That’s going to be a challenge,” Joyce predicts.
Joyce also cited fatigue management of pilots and crew as an issue for the ultra-long range flights.
In 1989 Qantas operated a flight direct from London to Sydney, however there were no commercial passengers on board.
Project Sunrise is named after the “double sunrise” flights flown by Qantas during World War II from Perth to Ceylon, with some travelling non-stop for 32 hours.
They are the longest commercial flights ever flown and were pivotal in maintaining the flow of mail and communication between Australia and the UK after the Japanese invaded Singapore.
Approximately 870 passengers flew on the 270 flights operated and were inducted into the “Secret Order of the Double Sunrise” once completed.
Sid Raja travelled to London as a guest of Qantas.