Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 June 2020

Regular non-stop flights from Sydney to London just got more likely: Qantas pilots say yes

Flight crew agreeing to the deal is a key moment in getting Project Sunrise off the ground, but lift off is still years away

Qantas pilots have given a boost to the Australian airline's plans to start flying the world's longest flights by 2023 after they voted in favour of a pay deal for piloting the London to Sydney route.

The fact that they would vote in favour of the deal wasn't a given, with one sticking point reportedly the clause that says pilots will need to be able to fly more than one type of aircraft.

Project Sunrise is a proposal from Qantas to open non-stop services to the Australian east coast from New York and London. Last year, the airline operated three test flights between Sydney, New York and London. Passengers and crew travelling on the flights were tested to gather data on the effects of flying on ultra-long haul flights.

According to the airline, 85 per cent of the flight crew recently voted in favour of the deal, which covers pay and working conditions for pilots who will fly the 18 to 20 hour flights from Australia to the UK. No further details have been released about the pay rates or shift times.

Qantas had previously told the Australian and International Pilots Association that it could set up a new employment entity to operate these flights, if pilots did not accept the new pay deal.

Coronavirus restrictions

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Qantas has currently grounded all international flights and cut domestic services. This is set to run until at least the end of May.

This means movement on Project Sunrise is unlikely to happen in the near future. But approval from pilots allows Qantas to look at the next step, and that will be ordering the aircraft that will fly its ultra-long haul services.

Test flights were originally carried out on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, but passenger load had to be reduced. Qantas said in December that it was considering Airbus' A350-1000 aircraft for the route.

During the test flights last year, the longest flight was from New York to Sydney with a total flying time of 19 hours and 31 minutes.

Due to ongoing issues from the coronavirus, the airline has pushed a decision on ordering the aircraft until the end of 2020.

Austrian Airlines breaks 60-year record

Qantas is not the only airline affected by the current global pandemic. Airlines around the world have grounded flights as more than 50 countries have banned passenger flights. These imposed travel restrictions have seen some airlines get creative.

A Lufthansa-owned Austrian airlines landed in Australia today, March 30, after completing the longest flight in the airline's 60 year history.

The airline has grounded all its commercial aircraft but made the 9,918-mile journey from Vienna to Sydney to pick up Austrians stranded in Australia.

Last week, Qantas flew the first ever A380 non-stop service from Australia to London to get around a ban on transit passengers at Singapore, the airline's usual hub.

Updated: March 30, 2020 10:54 AM

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