On 25th March, Qantas will commence service on a new flight which will take the record for the world’s longest flight. The 14,498km service between Perth in Western Australia to London will take 15 hours 45 minutes – for the first time ever, travellers in Europe and Australia will be able to fly direct between the two continents.
Qantas has made much of the fact that the new flight will be the quickest way to do the journey. A mission that can take almost 24 hours with the current options available. But the airline has to convince passengers that the time saving will be worth it – after all, spending nearly 16 hours on a plane is unlikely to be anyone’s idea of fun.
At present, many travellers counter the effects of jetlag with stopovers in popular transit cities such as Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. A shorter flight won’t benefit anyone if the time to recover from the epic marathon journey takes even longer than present.
That’s why the Australian flag carrier has focused a lot of attention on the health effects of its new service – just one of several new ultra long range flights it has planned under its ‘Project Sunrise’ challenge (Qantas has asked both Boeing and Airbus to develop aircraft that can fly direct between the East Coast of Australia to London and New York).
Qantas is counting on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the first aircraft capable of flying direct between Australia and Europe – to make a real difference in the passenger experience.
Unlike other aircraft, the Dreamliner doesn’t use ‘bleed air‘ from the engines to pump new air into the cabin – meaning the air quality should be significantly improved compared to competitors using aircraft like the 777 for similar length flights. The cabin is also pressurised to a lower altitude – meaning that your body doesn’t have to work so hard just to survive.
The large Dreamliner windows will also give a greater sense of space (even if you are sat in Economy for 16 hours) and ‘ride dampening technology’ should alleviate some of the uncomfortable turbulence that can make flights such a nightmare.
Qantas is also keen to stress that unlike some of its rivals, it’s aircraft operating on ultra long missions will have a lower passenger count and more personal space.
There are plenty of airlines with experience in operating flights nearly as long as the Perth to London route. Qatar Airways operates a direct service from Doha to Auckland and Emirates operates an ever so slightly shorter route to the New Zealand city from Dubai.
There are even longer flights in terms of time taken to reach the destination. Like the United Airlines service from San Francisco to Singapore – Blocked at 17 hours 55 minutes!
But Qantas appears to be doing more than any other airline in researching the effects of such lengthy flights – and implementing initiatives to combat the stress such a journey will have on the human body.
“There are lots of elements that combine to make the Qantas Dreamliner special. The seats, the lighting, the entertainment, personal storage, right through to the special crockery, cutlery and glassware that weighs on average 11% less,” explains Alan Joyce, the airline’s chief executive.
And there’s more:
“We’re working with sleep specialists, dieticians and other scientists at the University of Sydney to see how adjustments to our in-flight service can improve wellbeing and help people adjust to new time zones.”
Researchers from the Charles Perkins Centre at the university have been working with Qantas to make the Perth-London flight as comfortable as possible. Cabin lighting scenarios, cabin temperature, meal timing and recipe development have all been fine-tuned. Frequent flyers have even been fitted with wearable tech to record the effects of long-haul travel on their bodies.
Olivia Wirth, chief customer officer commented on the initiative: “It’s an exciting new frontier and we are eager to see how we can improve our understanding by taking a more scientific approach to the onboard experience of our passengers.”
And now, Qantas has developed a special menu in collaboration with Rockpool which will encourage sleep, reduce jetlag and maintain a healthy level of hydration. Sounds impressive – let’s hope it works!
Cold-pressed juice shots, a specially designed herbal tea and lighter meal options all appear on the new menu. Many of the meals feature large quantities of fresh seasonal vegetables – even in Economy. And for those in need of a sweet treat, there’s even a hot chocolate which is meant to help ease you into a relaxing sleep.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding (pun definitely intended) – we’ll have to wait until the end of March to see how passengers rate this direct link between Europe and Australia. With Qantas betting so much on this new vision of ultra-long range flights, the airline is definitely trying to differentiae itself from competitors.