In another blow to Boeing’s prestige, Qantas announced Friday that they have selected the Airbus A350 for their proposed ultra-long haul flights. An order hasn’t been placed and the airline will make the final go/no go decision in March 2020.
Over the last few months, Qantas has made news with their ultra-long haul ‘Project Sunrise’ flights between New York and Sydney and London and Sydney. At the time of the flights, Qantas was still evaluating whether the Airbus A350 or Boeing 777X would be selected for the proposed routes. On Friday, Qantas announced that after an extensive evaluation, they have selected the Airbus A350-1000, with Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines. Airbus will configure the aircraft with an extra fuel tank and increase the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) to deliver the required performance.
Although no orders have been placed, Qantas is working with Airbus to draft a contract for up to 12 Project Sunrise capable aircraft, pending a final decision by Qantas’ Board of Directors. Airbus has extended delivery slot confirmation deadline from February until March to meet the proposed start of Project Sunrise flights in 2023. The final Project Sunrise flight will take place on December 17, 2019. In Friday’s Announcement, Qantas’ CEO, Alan Joyce said,
“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. 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.”
Mr. Joyce continued to explain that Project Sunrise depends on a business case that works, and efficiency gains associated with pilot compensation and flexibility. Additionally, he thanked Boeing and Airbus for their innovative contributions to Project Sunrise and expressed how difficult the aircraft decision was.
Data from all 3 research flights will be provided to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia as part of Qantas’ effort to receive approval to extend current operating limits. Based on previous data and discussions related to fatigue levels, CASA has indicated that there shouldn’t be any regulatory obstacles. The airline continues to develop the “customer experience” for the 21 hour flights including space to accommodate movement and stretching as well as redesigning onboard service for optimal timezone adjustment.