Non-stop flights from Australia to New York and London are nearly here as Qantas plans October trial run

Qantas is trialling non-stop flights from Australia to New York and London. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
  • Qantas is trialling non-stop commercial flights from Australia to London and New York to research the impact on the health and wellbeing on passengers and crew members.
  • The flights will take approximately 19 hours and will include 40 people, including the crew.
  • The trial — which is set to commence in October — comes amid the airline’s 2019 financial year results, which signalled a drop in profits.

Qantas is planning to operate non-stop commercial flights from Australia to New York and London, but first, it’s conducting trial flights to see how the seriously long travel time will impact passengers and crew members.

Three research flights will be conducted in preparation for ‘Project Sunrise’, Qantas’ mission to operate direct commercial flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York.

They will be used to track the health and wellbeing of passengers and crew members on board the approximately 19-hour long flights and will be conducted in October, November and December using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Once completed, they will represent the world’s first flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney and the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Qantas first flew non-stop from London to Sydney back in 1989 to mark the Boeing 747-400 coming into service. The longest haul currently offered by the airline is the 17-hour flight from Perth London, but Singapore Airlines has been more daring, launching a direct flight from Singapore to Newark, New Jersey, in just under 19 hours.

The new Qantas trial flights, however, won’t be available for purchase. They will focus mainly on health and wellbeing research conducted by Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Monash University’s Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity.

Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including the crew, with most of the passengers including Qantas employees. As part of the research, cabin crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices and take part in a range of experiences during flight.

Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and drink consumption, lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment to assess the impact on health.

Monash University researchers on the other hand, will record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights – the hormone that helps regulate the body clock’s cycle of sleep and wakefulness.

Pilots will wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device to track their brain wave patterns and monitor alertness. The device will also generate data to help build the best work-rest pattern for pilots who operate long haul flights.

In addition, the research will look into food choices, separate stretching and wellbeing zones and entertainment options during the flights.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the flights will provide data to answer questions around the wellbeing of passengers and crew during long haul flights.

“For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight,” he said in a statement. “For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights.”

Joyce added that non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York is “truly the final frontier in aviation” and Qantas wanted to do all the groundwork to get it right.

“No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise,” he said. “We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing long-haul flights.”

The proposed long-haul flights pilot was announced as Qantas released its results for the 2019 financial year.

The company announced a 17% drop in underlying profits before tax to $1.30 billion, compared to the 2018 financial year. This was caused by increased fuel costs and foreign exchange prices.

While the non-stop flight trials are set the begin next month, Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) for ‘Project Sunrise’, should it come into effect. And a final decision on whether the non-stop flights will happen is expected coming by the end of December 2019.

If it does come into effect, you’ll be in the Big Apple in no time.

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