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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Australia's Qantas mulls buying new jets for ultra-long haul routes

Carrier joins airlines such as Singapore which will restart the world's longest flight

Qantas is seeking to connect Australia with key finance centres such as London and New York by 2022 with non-stop flights. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz
Qantas is seeking to connect Australia with key finance centres such as London and New York by 2022 with non-stop flights. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Qantas is pushing planemakers Airbus and Boeing for ultra-long haul jets as it seeks to connect Australia with key finance centres such as London and New York by 2022 with non-stop flights.

The Australian carrier, which is weighing an order between the long-range version of Airbus A350 or Boeing 777X, will put out a request for proposals once its comfortable with the technical evaluation of the aircraft, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

“We’re having good dialogue with Boeing and Airbus, we think we’ll get to the stage where, technically, we’ll know where the aircraft is going to be in the next few months,” Mr Joyce said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting.

The plan is part of Qantas’ Project Sunrise that aims to fly the Sydney- London route non-stop. This year Qantas began its Perth-London service, a 17-hour flight, using Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Demand for ultra-long haul flights is pushing aircraft and engine manufacturers to produce planes that can transport passengers for upto 20 hours without a break. Last month, Singapore Airlines said it will restart in October its Singapore-New York service, a 19-hour flight, making it the world’s longest.

Qantas will start the request for proposals “this year and into next year” and if the business case works out it will place an order in 2019 for the first delivery to arrive in 2022, he said.

"Boeing and Airbus are keeping slots for us, so its feasible at this stage,” Mr Joyce said. “We still have to go through a few hurdles.”

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Qantas is “getting very confident” about ultra-long haul flights following the success of its Perth-London route, Mr Joyce said.

“The economics is working, Perth-London is making money from day one,” he said, even with oil at $75 a barrel.

Mr Joyce said the ultra-long haul jet order would make a “reasonable-sized fleet” but declined to say how many jets Qantas would purchase. Potential routes could include Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London, New York, Paris and Frankfurt.

The airline is also talking to the aviation regulator about the number of pilots required, fatigue management and cabin crew rest hours.

“We’re quite confident we’ll get there,” he said.