QANTAS has today announced that Airbus has been selected as the preferred aircraft manufacturer for its proposed ultra long-haul flights “Sunrise” flights. The airline has selected the Airbus A350-1000 series aircraft over the yet to fly competing Boeing 777X. QANTAS however has not yet committed to placing an actual order for the A350-1000 as this is still contingent on several issues. A total order for 12 aircraft is expected.
Once the third and final 787 operated “research” flight is completed on 17 December from New York-JFK non-stop (this routing will be the second time), in addition to the already completed London-LHR-Sydney non stop, the airline will have around 60 hours data of “Sunrise flying”. This data will be evaluated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) particular in relation to pilot fatigue risk management in ultra long haul flying environments. According to QANTAS CASA sees no obstacles in granting regulatory approval.
According to the announcement “Industrial negotiations with representatives for Qantas pilots, AIPA, are continuing. The discussions are aimed at closing the last remaining gap in the Project Sunrise business case”. In an email to staff from QANTAS’ Chief Pilot, Richard Tobiano states that Airbus has agreed to a one month extension, from February 2020 to March 2020 to commit to the order allowing the “Sunrise” flights to commence early 2023. The Board will make a “final decision once the outcome of the (pilot) LH EBA vote is known in March”.
The A350-1000 will be used on 21 hour long flights from Australia’s East Coast non-stop to London-LHR and New York-JFK. QANTAS intends to configure them in a four class layout, offering First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class. The aircraft will have dedicated areas for passengers to stretch and exercise to alleviate the stresses from long haul flying.
QANTAS Group CEO, Alan Joyce states “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. 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.”
Apart from long haul services, the A350 can also be used on the airline’s existing A330 network of services.