Qantas’ Project Sunrise, the longest long-haul flight ever, is finally on the horizon

The Australian airline has plans for the longest flight in the world with Airbus A350-1000. Here’s a sneak peek!

While one of the biggest aviation markets globally, Australia has also been one of the most secluded ones, given its geographical positioning. Qantas, the only international airline based in Australia, has been trying to get ahead of this situation for a few years now.

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Direct long-haul flights on modified Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will cut up to four hours off total travel time compared with one-stop options today. Image: Courtesy Qantas.

The airline committed to the project in 2017, launching Project Sunrise, where it challenged both the big aircraft makers, Airbus and Boeing, to deliver an aircraft capable of ultra-long haul flying, which would revolutionise Australian air travel. In 2019, Qantas operated three Project Sunrise research flights using its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to gather inflight passenger and crew health and well-being data.

With the pandemic behind them and a recovery in global aviation, Qantas recently announced its plans to launch the world’s longest flights. The airline confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft to enable non-stop flights to Australia from any other city, including New York and London, from late 2025. Airbus will modify the A350 (by adding extra tanks that can store 20,000 litres worth of fuel) to make it capable of operating these flights.

The flight between New York and Sydney will be 9,950 miles, overtaking the current longest flight in the world operated by Singapore Airlines on the Singapore-New York route which is at 9,537 miles flown. But, Singapore-London Heathrow will be 10,573 miles, making it the new long-haul leader by a comfortable 1,000 miles more than the current one. Incidentally, Singapore Airlines uses a specially configured A350-900 (called the Ultra Long-Range variant), to operate these flights. 

Qantas has also shared preliminary concepts for its A350 cabin of the future that will offer a new level of comfort for all passengers on these direct flights that will cut up to four hours off total travel time compared with one-stop options today.

The Qantas A350-1000 will have a total seat count of 238, the lowest compared with any other A350-1000 currently in service. The first Project Sunrise flights will be from New York and London, but the aircraft will also be able to operate non-stop flights to Australia from destinations such as Paris and Frankfurt

Customers onboard Qantas’ new fleet of A350 aircraft will be treated to luxurious First Class Suites, each with a separate bed, recliner lounge chair and personal wardrobe. There will be six of these suites onboard, and to bide time, a 32” inflight entertainment screen will complete the offering to the customers.

Suggested read: Welcome VistaJet’s new ‘Ferrari Of The Skies’, one of the world’s fastest long-haul aircrafts!

Six first-class suites will offer absolute comfort on the long journey. Rendering: courtesy qantas.
Six First-Class Suites will offer absolute comfort on the long journey. Rendering: Courtesy Qantas.
Personal entertainment, a cosy bed, a recliner and your own wardrobe. You'll be forgiven for not wanting to land in a hurry! Rendering: courtesy qantas.
Personal entertainment, a cosy bed, a recliner AND your own wardrobe. You’ll be forgiven for not wanting to land in a hurry! Rendering: Courtesy Qantas.

Apart from that, the airline will offer a new Business Class Suite, with all the Business Class seats having aisle access. Premium Economy onboard will have a seat pitch at 40 inches, while the Economy seat will be pitched at 33 inches. Those extra two inches in Economy class are very generous, given that 31” is the usual standard international configuration.

But the most exciting new development is the dedicated Wellbeing Zone, which is designed for movement, stretching and hydration aboard these 20 hours-plus flights. Here are a few renderings from Qantas.

The unique wellbeing zone will allow you to stretch and walk around during the flight. Rendering: courtesy qantas.
The unique wellbeing zone will allow you to stretch and walk around during the flight. Rendering: Courtesy Qantas.

It is interesting to see that instead of adding a bar/lounge as other airlines do, Qantas picked on the health consciousness of the Australian traveller, and left the area open for them to come around and stretch themselves whenever they want.

It promises to be quite spacious too. Rendering: courtesy qantas.
It promises to be quite spacious too. Rendering: Courtesy Qantas.

Ultimately, Qantas is going to see success with these flights, given travellers, especially in Australia, tend to be ready to pay a premium to travel better and if Qantas intends to shave off four hours of their travel time.

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