WHEN Qantas launched its direct flights from Perth to London, some praised it as a history making, game-changing event, while others cringed at the idea of 17 relentless hours in the air.
So in news that will thrill the first lot of people and raise eyebrows among the rest, Qantas now plans to do one better.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has revealed plans for a 20-hour non-stop flight between Sydney and London, which he said was likely to reach the friendly skies within the next four years.
A year ago, Mr Joyce threw down the challenge to jet makers Boeing and Airbus to develop passenger planes capable of flying ultra-long routes from Sydney to London or New York by the early 2020s.
Now, in a new interview, Mr Joyce said he’s convinced they’ve done it.
“We’re now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it,” the airline boss told Bloomberg.
“I’m actually confident that it will get there and we will have aircraft in 2022.”
And if those initial routes work, that could unlock direct connections between Australia and major cities in North and South America, Europe and Africa.
It’s all part of Project Sunrise — Qantas’ bold plan to fly plane loads of people, and all their luggage, non-stop to between Australia’s east coast and London, Paris and New York by 2022.
While the Dreamliners that serve the current non-stop flights between Perth and London have been lauded for their innovation and anti-jet lag features, Mr Joyce said Qantas was looking at new ways to configure cabins to maximise comfort on the marathon flights.
He mentioned childcare facilities, workout areas and bunk beds as features that could be considered.
“We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box,” he said.
“Would you have the space used for other activities — exercise, bar, creche, sleeping areas and berths? Boeing and Airbus have been actually quite creative in coming up with ideas.”
Qantas launched its non-stop flights between Perth and London in March, providing the first direct air link between Australia and the UK.
Some passengers praised the route while others struggled with 17 bum-numbing hours in the air.
Qantas has already broken speed records twice on the route, including in April, when a Dreamliner made the London-Perth run in just 15 hours and 45 minutes.
Singapore Airlines recently announced it would restart its non-stop flights from Singapore to New York by the end of the year.
At 19 hours, it would become the world’s new longest plane journey, trumping Qatar Airways’ current 18-hour flight from Auckland to Doha.