It seems the next steps have been taken with Qantas’s Project Sunrise – its ultra-long-haul flying project. And it’s the Airbus’s A350-1000 that will take the spoils if the project goes ahead.
Airbus has agreed to extend the deadline to confirm delivery slots from February 2020 to March 2020. This provides additional time to negotiate an industrial agreement without impacting the planned start date of Project Sunrise flights in the first half of calendar 2023.
The A350 beat the Boeing 777x project according to the airline. The reasons for them going for the A350 include a strong engine reliability record and the ability to add an additional fuel tank to increase the maximum take-off weight to deliver the performance of the planned Sunrise routes
However, with a decision not formally made, Airbus has no orders on the type just yet. If ordered, Airbus will deliver up to 12 aircraft to Qantas.
As for the delay which Airbus has agreed to – this provides additional time to negotiate an industrial agreement without impacting the planned start date of Project Sunrise flights in the first half of calendar 2023.
Regulatory approval will need to happen for the project – part of the reason of the Project Sunrise flights. The last of the flights (New York to Syndey) will fly on the 17th December this year. For Qantas, the data for crew will be used as part of final discussions with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to approve an extension to current operating limits required for these ultra long haul services. Based on detailed information already provided by Qantas on its fatigue risk management system, CASA has provisionally advised that it sees no regulatory obstacles to the Sunrise flights.
Qantas plans a four-class cabin on the A350, with First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. The research flights have proved some data for Qantas including the importance of dedicated space for stretching and movement for Economy passengers in particular, as well as the potential benefits from re-designing the service onboard to actively shift people to their destination timezone.
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.
“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.
“From the outset, we’ve been clear that Project Sunrise depends on a business case that works. We’ll only commit to this investment if we know it will generate the right return for our shareholders given the inherent commercial risks.
“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. 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.
“Can I thank both Airbus and Boeing for the tremendous effort they have put into Project Sunrise. It was a tough choice between two very capable aircraft, made even harder by innovation from both manufacturers to improve on what they had already spent years designing.”
And the final Go/No Go on Project Sunrise?
The final Go/No Go decision on Project Sunrise will take place in March 2020. Until then, we’ll have to wait.
But with other airlines going ahead with their ultra-long-range plans, Qantas may just have to get on with it – and fly non-stop from Australia to the farther reaches of the world.
Welcome to Economy Class and Beyond – Your no-nonsense guide to network news, honest reviews, with in-depth coverage, unique research as well as the humour and madness as I only know how to deliver.