Qantas selects Airbus A350-1000 for Project Sunrise flights

Image Qantas

Image Qantas

Australia's Qantas Airways picked Airbus over Boeing as the preferred supplier for jets capable of the world's longest commercial flights from Sydney to London, dealing the U.S. planemaker its latest setback this year.

The Australian airline, however, has made it clear that it is not yet an order, but is working closely with Airbus to prepare a contract to purchase 12 planes to be reviewed by its executive committee by March 2020.

Qantas hopes to launch the long-haul service Project Sunrise in 2023.

The competition, which was based around the selection of ultra long haul aircraft, the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350, has found a victor in Airbus, with the Airbus A350-1000 selected, if Project Sunrise proceeds. But Qantas has been pondering making those trips a whole lot more bearable via direct flights from the east coast to both London and NY - even running two trial journeys over the last two months.

The A350-1000 (ULR) will be equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, an additional fuel tank, and a slightly increased maximum take-off weight.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer thanked Qantas for its selection in a statement, while a Boeing spokesman said it was disappointed with the decision but looked forward to continuing its longstanding partnership with the airline. Before the route becomes reality, it must be approved by the Qantas board at a vote, scheduled to take place in March 2020.

Australia's national carrier Qantas has completed a 19-and-a-half hour non-stop flight from London to Sydney, part of a series of tests to assess the effects of very long-haul flights. Qantas in negotiations with its pilots' union about these matters. Discussions centre on productivity and efficiency gains, including the ability to use the same pilots across its A350 Sunrise aircraft and the airline's existing fleet of Airbus A330s.

Critics of the program claim that it is one large PR stunt, citing that ultra-long-haul flights already operate with durations of just over 17 hours. 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. 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're offering promotions and an increase in pay but we're asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs", Joyce said.

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