In the past 24 hours two news items emerged that look like impacting Qantas and its “Project Sunrise”.
Today the second item came out – Boeing is delaying its 777-8, which was that company’s most promising aircraft for the same Qantas requirement.
Meanwhile Airbus offered us this comment on the possible A350-1000ULR: “As a leading aircraft manufacturer we are always looking at ways to develop our existing products. The ULR version of the A350 is already in service on world’s longest commercial routes – today! The A350 XWB is perfect solution for Project Sunrise – non-stop Sydney or Melbourne to London. Details of any discussions remain of course confidential.”
Qantas continues to press forward with this ultra long range dream of a flight from the UK to Sydney. It’s Perth to London flight using as 787-9 appears to be doing better than expected. Load factors are high and premium pricing is holding up. Consequently, the Sydney market is thought to offer even better numbers since that is a far bigger market. indeed, a non-stop London to Sydney will almost certainly take away some of the Perth-London traffic.
Up to now Airbus’ best option for the London-Sydney market was the A350-900ULR. That aircraft would have a tough time competing against the probable 777-8. The Boeing would likely have had a better payload and therefore offer better revenue. But if Airbus has an A350-1000ULR, this should compete much more effectively with a 777-8.
There is, officially, no A350-1000ULR. The 777-8 is now pushed off to the right, even as the 777-9 has started its ground tests. Qantas now has to bide some more time while Airbus refines its project offering and Boeing does the same. Of some interest is the fact that Qatar is a customer for the 777-8 and its CEO was the source for the A350-1000ULR story yesterday. Mr Al Baker is a master of playing off Airbus and Boeing against each other. Qantas might be best off letting Mr Al Baker do the pushing, nudging and annoying.