Qantas could introduce ultra-long-haul flights under its delayed Project Sunrise program as soon as 2024, according to Alan Joyce, chief executive at Qantas. “We still want to revisit it at the end of 2021, with the potential of doing it in 2024, probably, and onwards,” Joyce said during a Eurocontrol event this week.

Project Sunrise is a research project that Qantas has been evaluating for three years, challenging both Airbus and Boeing to field an aircraft capable of serving three of the world’s longest non-stop routes. Qantas announced a modified version of the A350-1000 was its preferred aircraft. Initial plans would have seen Qantas up to 12 Airbus A350-1000s last year and direct services from Melbourne and Sydney to London and New York.

The plan was put on hold amid the pandemic, Joyce said, but its might only be delayed by 12 months or so. They were very close in closing an last year for 12 A350-1000s, which could mean that the order may be finalized this year with Airbus. The OEM states that they are in discussions with Qantas, but can’t comment on the details. 

Whilst some would think that sitting on a flight for 21 hours could be harmful. Joyce explained the attractiveness of such services in a post-pandemic world, that the direct Perth London sector was the carrier’s “most profitable” international route pre-crisis with the “highest customer satisfaction”, despite it being Qantas’ longest flight. People are likely to have a preference for flying direct, as opposed to through hubs, when international travel returns.

As the timelines have been pushed back and travel is still uncertain at this point in time, it seems, however, that Project Sunrise will go ahead. The question is when. Qantas does not expect to be flying international routes again until the second half of 2021 and that it expects international demand to take years to rebound, it may be the second half of the decade before we see Project Sunrise flights take off.

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