Project Sunrise: Qantas officially announces plane purchase for London-Australia direct flights

May 2, 2022

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In a move the airline said will help it conquer the “final frontier” of long-haul travel, Australian carrier Qantas announced a major purchase of planes designed to carry passengers on direct flights between London and Australia within the next few years.

Sunday evening, Qantas confirmed it’s purchasing a dozen Airbus A350 aircraft which will make up its fleet for ultra-long-haul service between Sydney and Melbourne, and New York and London.

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Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot courtesy Qantas)
Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot from Qantas)

Anticipated for years but delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas has long referred to its dreamed expansion to London and New York as “Project Sunrise.”

Back in 2019, the carrier ran tests of the flights using newly delivered Boeing 787-9 aircraft, saying it was deciding between Boeing and Airbus proposals for the venture.

TPG was on board one of its nearly 10,000-mile, 19-plus-hour hauls between Sydney and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), which figures to eventually top the distance of any current flight on the planet. As part of the research flights, Qantas collected health data on pilots, crew and passengers to incorporate into its plans for the eventual, official Project Sunrise flights.

Although the airline said in late 2019 that it had decided on the A350-1000 for the eventual commercial flights, the airline did not place a formal order at the time, and the project was eventually placed on the backburner due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas said its new Airbus A350 aircraft, expected to begin rolling out by 2025, will include first-class and business-class suites, with more than 40% of the cabin dedicated to premium seating.

You can see the layout of the cabin in a press release issued by Qantas Sunday.

Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot courtesy Qantas)
Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot from Qantas)
Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot courtesy Qantas)
Press release rendering of the cabin for Project Sunrise. (Screenshot from Qantas)

The first-class cabin renderings look pretty compelling.

qantas first class suite project sunrise rendering
(Image courtesy of Qantas)
Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot courtesy Qantas)
Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot from Qantas)

In order to help passengers through flights of unprecedented length, the planes will also include what the airline is calling “Wellbeing Zones,” designed for movement, stretching and hydration.

qantas wellbeing zone rendering
(Image courtesy of Qantas)

The planes will each have a total of 238 seats on board.

“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make almost any city in the world just one flight away from Australia,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement Sunday evening (Monday morning, Australia time). “It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance that has traditionally challenged travel to Australia.”

Joyce said the addition of direct service to New York and London figures to cut around four hours of total travel time off of trips to Sydney and Melbourne.

In addition to the planes it’s ordering for the eventual Project Sunrise service, Qantas also announced plans to purchase dozens of other aircraft, including A321XLR and A220 planes that will revamp the carrier’s domestic service in Australia. Delivery dates for the planes are spread out over the course of the next decade or so.

Looking out the window of ac Qantas aircraft. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Once the nonstop service to Australia becomes a reality for New York and London travellers, it will mean more — and easier — access to the continent, a plus for those who have long had Australia on their travel bucket list.

While Qantas did not give specific dates on precisely when the Project Sunrise service should begin, this announcement represents a major step toward service the airline and its passengers have eyed for many years.

Additional reporting by David Slotnick.

Featured photo of an A350-1000 in Toulouse, France, on 24 November 2016, by Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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