Qantas has unveiled details of the ultra-long-haul aircraft it plans to operate on non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York by the end of 2025, as the crumbling financial situation of the airline is showing signs of improvement.
Confirming the information that has circulated in recent days, Qantas has announced its mega order with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for 12 of its A350-1000 aircraft. These will be executed on so-called “Project Sunrise” flights, with the first to be delivered in 2025.
The airline says the planes will be “capable of flying direct from Australia to any other city” in the world, while being 25% more fuel efficient than previous planes.
The jumbo jets will be able to carry 238 passengers and will have “welcome zones” allowing passengers to move around the cabin in order to interrupt ultra-long-haul flights that will reach until 8 p.m.
Chief Executive Alan Joyce said Project Sunrise is “the final frontier and final solution to the tyranny of distance” and that the A350 cabin “is specially designed for maximum comfort in all classes for long-haul flights. couriers”.
The airline has been planning the project for years, with the pandemic delaying its launch. The planned 20-hour service between Sydney and London would become the longest commercial flight in the world.
Despite Qantas’ claim that non-stop flights and new aircraft will bring “major emissions improvements”, experts say the benefits will be negligible.
Currently, an average round trip from Sydney to London with a stopover in Singapore generates around 3,500 kg of CO2 emissions per passenger, according to estimates based on Atmosfair data.
Dr Tony Webber, a former chief economist at Qantas who now heads the air intelligence research group and works at the University of New South Wales School of Aviation, said ultra long flights -couriers “are normally not very fuel efficient at all”.
“It’s true that reducing four movements – one take-off and one landing for each stage – means less fuel consumed, but for an airplane to stay in the air for 20 hours without refueling means that it carries a huge amount of fuel.
“That extra fuel is extra weight, which means you have to burn more fuel overall to carry it. That’s a real inefficiency compared to flights that can carry less fuel and refuel at a stopover. said Webber.
Webber said the need to carry so much fuel would create payload restrictions, meaning the plane could tolerate less cargo and passengers.
Conversely, these weight restrictions could lead Qantas to opt for a more spacious seating configuration in its A350s, Webber said, because it cannot maximize the number of seats based on the available cabin space. Qantas has already announced that more than 40% of the cabin of its A350s will be “dedicated to premium seats”, in addition to its “wellness zones”.
“Being confined to a small space, especially an economy seat, for 18 hours or more is torture. Personal space will need to be increased, as well as space for pilots and crew to rest.
Although Qantas has yet to release ultra long-haul flight costs, Webber predicted that at a minimum, non-stop routes would cost $300 more per trip and would increase based on how much time the route saves the passenger. passenger.
Qantas has also ordered 40 additional Airbus aircraft – A321XLRs and A220-300s – for domestic operations, with the first such aircraft due for delivery next year. The deal is believed to be valued at billions of dollars.
While the airline says the exact cost of the new planes is commercially trusted, it said “a significant discount from the standard price should be assumed.”
Regarding refresh orders for its domestic fleet, Joyce said the range and economy of the new aircraft Qantas had ordered “will make new direct routes possible, including better serving regional cities” and that “these new aircraft and engines will reduce emissions by at least 15% when running on fossil fuels, and significantly better when running on sustainable aviation fuel.”
The Qantas Group – which includes low-cost carrier Jetstar – also released its third quarter financial update on Monday. While the resurgence of domestic and some international travel markets has boosted revenue, the airline still expects to post a “significant” full-year loss. Net debt fell from $5.5 billion at the end of December to $4.5 billion at the end of April.
Regarding the cost of the gigantic aircraft order, Joyce said the staggered delivery means “it can be financed within our debt range and through earnings”, and that “analysis of Project payback Sunrise has an internal rate of return in the mid-teens.”
“The Board’s decision to approve what is the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the Qantas Group. Our strategy for these aircraft will enable us to generate significant benefits for those who make this possible – our employees, our customers and our shareholders,” said Joyce.