Qantas is set to announce an official order on Monday for up to 12 specially adapted Airbus A350-1000 aircraft that will be used to operate direct, non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York.
The order is part of an internal project known as ‘Project Sunrise’ which was originally due to be announced in early 2020. The project was quickly shelved at the start of the pandemic but, nearly two years later, the airline confirmed in February that it had restarted work on ‘Project Sunrise’.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has reportedly flown a demonstration A350-1000 out to Sydney just for the announcement which will be made from inside one of Qantas’ aircraft hangars.
The demonstration aircraft has been adorned with the Qantas logo and the slogan: “Our spirit flies further” – a take on the ‘Spirit of Australia’ slogan that is emblazoned on every Qantas jet.
The order is reportedly worth up to US$4.39 billion at list value, although the exact deal price is a closely guarded secret and will likely be cheaper than the list value.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce had been weeks away from signing an order with Airbus when the pandemic struck. By this point, Airbus had already agreed to extend the order deadline so that Qantas could hammer out contract amendments with its pilot workforce to make the ultra-long-haul flights possible.
As a result of the pandemic, the aircraft now won’t be ready until at least 2025. The aircraft will be fitted with specially adapted fuel tanks to make the flights possible. With flight times of up to 20 hours, non-stop service from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York will be the longest in the world.
In February, Qantas said it had conducted customer research that showed demand for ultra-long-haul non-stop flights was stronger than before the pandemic.
The airline already operates direct flights between London and Sydney and Melbourne with a short stopover via Darwin. The service is operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and has to stop on the ground on its arrival in Australia for over an hour to be refuelled.
Qantas declined to confirm details of the order on Sunday but has invited the media to a special event on Monday where it will talk about its future fleet plans.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.