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Qantas confronts 'tyranny of distance' with Project Sunrise

The 'flying kangaroo' will soon be hopping non-stop from Sydney to London.

Qantas has announced it will be flying halfway around the globe non-stop by 2025 under its long-haul 'Project Sunrise' plan.

Australia’s flag carrier today confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s capable of conquering “the final frontier of long-haul travel” with direct flights from Australia’s east coast to any other city in the world, including London and New York.

Project Sunrise will shave around four hours off the total time to these destinations compared to the one-stop options currently available, along with a “new level” of comfort. The non-stop route will take 20 hours.

Luxe amenities aim to soften the length of time spent on board. First class suites boast a separate bed, recliner lounge chair and wardrobe. There will be a Wellbeing Zone for passengers to stretch out and rehydrate and more space for those seated at the back of the plane; premium economy seats will be pitched at 40 inches and economy at 33 inches. The total seat count across all classes will be 238, which is the lowest compared with any other A350-1000 currently in service. More than 40% of seating will be dedicated to premium classes.

A luxurious A350 First Suite.

The cabin interior has been designed based on medical and scientific research carried out on three research flights between New York, London and Sydney in 2019.

Project Sunrise was first announced in 2017 with the official launch of non-stop flights between Australia’s east coast and cities including London, Paris and New York slated for 2022, but the pandemic put the brakes on these plans and the project was mothballed in 2020.

However, post-pandemic, the long-haul service has finally received the green light.

“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make almost any city in the world just one flight away from Australia,” said Alan Joyce, Qantas Group chief executive officer. “It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance that has traditionally challenged travel to Australia.”

Passengers will be able to stretch out in a Wellbeing Zone.

Qantas started a direct route between Perth and London in 2017 which showed strong demand.

“Pre-Covid, it was the longest route on our network and had the highest customer satisfaction on our network,” said Joyce. “All signs point to that demand increasing post-Covid.”

Joyce confirmed that the first Project Sunrise flights would be from New York and London but the aircraft would have the potential for flights to other destinations, such as Paris and Frankfurt.

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