Qantas announces preferred aircraft for ultra-long-haul flights

Qantas has picked the Airbus A350-1000 as its preferred aircraft for non-stop flights from Australia to New York and London – if it decides to go ahead with them.

The airline announced today it had delayed when it would make a final yes-or-no decision on Project Sunrise, its ambitious project to fly non-stop between Australia’s east coast and New York and London, which would be the longest commercial airline routes in history.

That decision was expected this year but will now be made in March.

If the decision is a yes, those ultra long-haul flights will be serviced by the Airbus A350-1000 – the same aircraft used by Singapore Airlines to fly the world’s current longest route, Singapore-Newark.

The Airbus A350-1000 with Qantas livery. Picture: QantasSource:Supplied

“No orders have been placed but Qantas will work closely with Airbus to prepare contract terms for up to 12 aircraft ahead of a final decision by the Qantas board,” the airline said in a statement.

The Airbus aircraft came out ahead of Boeing’s 777X-8, which had also been under consideration for the Project Sunrise flights.

Qantas has so far carried out two tests of the long-range flights, from New York to Sydney and London to Sydney, with a third test flight from New York to Sydney scheduled for December 17.

RELATED: What it’s like on Qantas’ non-stop flight from London to Sydney

If it decides to go ahead with Project Sunrise, passengers could be flying non-stop to New York and London in the first half of 2023.

The A350-1000 on its maiden flight over Toulouse in 2016. Picture: Sylvain RamadierSource:Supplied

“Between the research flights and what we’ve learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like New York and London to the east coast of Australia,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.

“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience.

“The aircraft and engine combination is next generation technology, but it’s thoroughly proven after more than two years in service. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long-haul routes if we want it to.”

Qantas is continuing industrial negotiations with the Qantas pilots’ union AIPA, which has previously raised safety concerns with the ultra-long flights.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the economics, and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots,” Mr Joyce said today.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is hoping to reach a deal with pilots should the long-haul flights go ahead. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“We’re offering promotions and an increase in pay, but we’re asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs.

“Airbus has given us an extra month to lock in an aircraft order without impacting our planned start date, which means we can spend more time on hopefully reaching a deal with our pilots.”

Mr Joyce had previously challenged jet-making giants Airbus and Boeing to develop a jet capable of carrying out its ultra long-range ambitions.

“Can I thank both Airbus and Boeing for the tremendous effort they have put into Project Sunrise,” he said.

“It was a tough choice between two very capable aircraft, made even harder by innovation from both manufacturers to improve on what they had already spent years designing.”

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