Qantas will launch non-stop Boeing 787-9 flights between Perth and London from March 2018, in a move that will see the WA capital positioned as the airline's gateway for direct Dreamliner flights to Europe.
In addition to the 17 hour Perth-London trek, Qantas is also eying non-stop flights to Paris, Rome and Frankfurt on the airline's new Boeing 787-9.
These flights will run from the Qantas T3 domestic terminal at Perth, which will be upgraded to cater for international requirements such as immigration and quarantine.
This will allow Qantas passengers flying into Perth from other destinations – most likely Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – to enjoy a seamless transfer without having to be shuttled between the domestic and international terminals.
Qantas' new Perth-London Boeing 787 route is tipped to begin in Melbourne, with the Melbourne-Perth leg flown by the same Boeing 787 as bound for London.
The Qantas Boeing 787-9 has less than half as many seats as the huge double-decker Airbus A380, and no first class suites.
However, the Dreamliner has a far superior business class (shown above), and almost identical to the Airbus A330 Business Suite design); an extra inch of legroom in economy; and what's promised as an all-new "revolutionary" premium economy seat.
"When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947 it took four days and nine stops, now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop" said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce in announcing the new flights.
"This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft. Australians have never had a direct link to Europe before, so the opportunities this opens up are huge."
But the start of non-stop Perth-London flights could come at a cost, with Qantas drawing up plans to axe its daily Melbourne-Dubai-London service on the Airbus A380 superjumbo due to concerns the Australian market can't support three red-tailed flights to London.
Qantas' partner Emirates would fill the gap by rostering one of its own superjumbos rostered onto the Melbourne-Dubai route, with connections to London and other cities in the UK and Europe.
However, Joyce wouldn't reveal if pricing for the Perth-London service would be the same as the via-Dubai flights or if passengers would pay a premium for the convenience of a non-stop flight.
"You'll have until April (2017) when we come out with the pricing structure" Joyce teased Australian Business Traveller, although he maintained the fares would be "competitive" against other airlines.
How Qantas non-stop Perth-London flights will work
The Perth-London Boeing 787 service is expected to carry around 150,000 passengers per year.
Qantas expects a majority of Australian passengers to come from the eastern capital cities, choosing the Boeing 787 – with its smoother ride and jetlag-busting technology – and the direct Perth-London route over flying from Sydney or Melbourne via Dubai.
Those travellers will fly west on domestic Qantas services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, with Qantas "looking at the timing of our domestic flights through Perth to offer the best connections we can," Joyce says.
(At this stage we've heard no mention of a new Qantas International Lounge being built for Terminal 3.)
They'll then make their way to a newly-built T3 'international departures' area with customs and border security before boarding the Dreamliner via a special 'swing gate' walkway which can switch between domestic and international modes.
After that, it's just a matter of settling in for around 17 hours until they land at London's Heathrow Airport.
Qantas hasn't revealed the schedule for this globe-striding flight but given a 17 hour travel time between Perth and London, a mid-morning departure from Perth (not so easy for eastern state connections) would see arrival into London in the early evening; conversely, an evening departure from Perth would have the flight land at Heathrow around 5-6am.
A terminal tiff
Terminal upgrades such as the swing gate and international zone were sticking points in negotiations between Qantas and Perth Airport, with the airport pegging the bill at some $25 million and pushing for Qantas to instead use the international terminal.
Perth Airport and Qantas have since come to "an arrangement" on the upgrade costs, while West Australian state premier Colin Barnett is believed to have dipped into the state's coffers to pay for Australian Border Force staff to be rostered on at the domestic terminal.
The WA State Government will also put $14 million towards the infrastructure and fit-out required to upgrade T3 for international use, while Qantas will relocate its Perth-Singapore and Perth-Auckland flights from T1 to T3 to make best use of the facilities.
Barnett and WA business leaders have been effusive about the route's commercial benefits to Perth, primarily through inbound tourism on the leg from London, and the opportunity for Perth "to become the western gateway into Australia" via a series of non-stop Qantas flights such as London, Paris, Frankfurt and Rome.
For its part, Qantas has made an "in-principal agreement" to move all of its domestic and international flights to a new T1 pier by 2025, using a similar arrangement to Virgin Australia's T1 domestic pier which opened in 2015 (below).
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