Qantas says it will start flying nonstop from Australia’s east coast to New York and London within five years, but there’s one small catch.
They don’t yet have a plane capable of making the journey.
The Australian airline is keen to start the long-haul flights in 2022, and launches a non-stop 17-hour service from Perth to London in March next year on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
It also currently delivers the world’s third-longest commercial flight — 13,730 km from Sydney to Dallas in the A380.
The longer flights are Qatar’s 14,529 km Doha to Auckland route on a Boeing 777-200LR and Air India’s Delhi to San Francisco.
Today, CEO Alan Joyce announced the airline posted the second highest underlying profit before tax in the company’s history: $1,401 million.
Qantas posted a statutory profit before tax of $1,181 million and is giving $55 million to its non-executive employees as a bonus.
Joyce said Qantas was investigating direct flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to London with its manufacturers working on the development of the Airbus A350ULR and Boeing 777X.
The plan has been dubbed “Project Sunrise”.
Joyce called it a revolution in Australian air travel that was “a last frontier in global aviation”.
He said he’d written to the CEOs of Boeing and Airbus about designing planes to meet his airline’s goal.
“Qantas will challenge Boeing and Airbus to deliver an aircraft capable of flying regular direct services like Sydney-London, Brisbane-Paris and Melbourne-New York non-stop with a full payload by 2022,” he said.
“We believe advances in the next few years will close the gap, and Qantas has the unique operational experience to be the airline that helps make it happen.”
The CEO said a direct flight would cut total journey time by up to four hours on the Sydney-London journey and almost three hours on Melbourne-New York.
“From next year we’ll be flying direct from Perth to London, which is a huge leap forward. We believe advances in technology in the next few years will make Sydney to London direct a possibility and Qantas is well placed to be the airline to do it,” he said.
“Any aircraft purchase would have to meet strict financial thresholds, but these direct flights would be revolutionary for air travel in Australia.”
Qantas International will take the delivery of two Dreamliner 787-9s in the first half of FY18, with all eight to join the fleet by first half FY19.
The first Dreamliner arrives in October.
Five older 747 jumbos will be retired to make way for the eight Dreamliners. The remaining six extended range 747s are expected to stay in service until the early 2020s.
Qantas also announced a major cabin upgrade for its 12 Airbus A380s in 2019 and will change the seat mix, with 30 economy seats removed upstairs. The airline will add six more business class and 25 premium economy seats, a jump of 27% on the current configuration.