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A350 Qantas airliner

Qantas wants 12 specially adapted planes for non-stop Sydney-London route

Image credit: Qantas

Qantas plans to buy 12 Airbus A350 if its 'Project Sunrise' project is approved which will see non-stop flights between London and Sydney for the first time from 2023.

The airliner wants to work with Airbus to adapt its aircraft with an additional fuel tank and increased maximum take-off weight to make the flight possible.

It also wants the Australian government’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority to approve an extension to current operating limits required for ultra-long-haul services.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the national carrier’s support for Project Sunrise was stronger than ever, particularly after the success of recent “dry run” research flights.

Last month the airliner touched down in Sydney after flying non-stop from London breaking the record for the world's longest passenger flight by a commercial airline. It broke both the distance record, at 17,800km, and for duration in the air, at 19 hours and 19 minutes.

“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,” 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.”

He added that more details relating to the flights were still to be settled, including confirming a business plan, which would ensure the routes were financially viable, and agreeing contractual terms for pilots, who would be paid more to fly the two longest passenger routes in the world.

The planes will also feature new cabins across First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy.

Qantas said the research flights “underscored the importance” of dedicated space for stretching and movement for Economy passengers.

“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,” Joyce said.

“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.”

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