Qantas launches first direct flight from Australia to mainland Europe – ahead of Project Sunrise

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On June 22, Qantas flew direct from Perth Airport (PER) in Western Australia to Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) in Italy for the first time.

The new route takes 16-hours, 25-minutes and flies three times per week, one way. It’s Qantas’ first non-stop link to mainland Europe – though Australia’s flag carrier also offers a direct Australia-U.K. route, with non-stop flights from Perth to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) which launched in 2018.

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These flights were paused in 2020 due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, but recently resumed in May 2022. Currently, Qantas is the only airline to connect the U.K. and Australia directly – without stopovers. The journey on the Qantas Dreamliner takes a total of 16-hours, 45-minutes and covers 14,498km of ground.

Both routes are essentially a precursor to Qantas’ Project Sunrise: the long-discussed plan to fly passengers directly from Sydney and Melbourne to London, Paris and New York.

But what exactly is Project Sunrise, and when is it due to land? And how much does the new Rome route set travellers back in the meantime?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Qantas Project Sunrise?

Central business district of Sydney and the Opera House with P&O Pacific Pearl Cruise ship docked in the harbor, Australia
Sydney and Melbourne are the target cities for Project Sunrise (Photo by Steve Heap/Getty Images)

Project Sunrise is the (rather cool) name for Qantas’ efforts to introduce ultra long haul flights from Australian cities Sydney and Melbourne, flying direct to London and New York by 2025’s end.

Related: How to fly to Australia on miles and points

Qantas does currently offer U.K. routes to cities beyond Perth – Adelaide, Brisbane, Broome and Darwin, as well as Melbourne and Sydney – but these flights all involve at least one stopover (adding a varying number of hours to passenger journeys).

As for the U.S., a number of airlines offer direct flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and other cities to Sydney and Melbourne – but none fly directly from New York on the East Coast.

Press release on Project Sunrise. (Screenshot courtesy Qantas)

So, why not? Well, as things stand, planes simply aren’t built to make these types of lengthy, non-stop journeys, when a full plane of passengers and cargo are on board.

Amazingly, the Project Sunrise route has already been tested. Qantas ran a historic test New York to Sydney direct flight, back in November 2019, called QF 787-9.

QF 787-9 left John F Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York, on a Friday at 9.27pm U.S. time, landing in Sydney Airport (SYD) on a Sunday at 7.43am Australian time. It covered 16,200km and was in the air, the plane’s captain said afterwards, for 19 hours, 16 minutes.

Related: Why this Australian isn’t looking forward to Project Sunrise

Notably, the plane flew with the maximum amount of fuel possible, and a minimal number of passengers and crew on board.

Despite the pandemic putting a firm halt on all things travel in 2020 and 2021, Qantas confirmed in a May 2022 announcement that they’d ordered 12 A350-1000 aircrafts from Airbus, and gave a loose date of ‘late 2025’ for the expected launch.

How much are Qantas’ new non-stop flights from Australia to Europe?

Given that late 2025 is a good three years away (if not more), you might be wondering how much the non-stop Perth to Rome flights cost now.

According to the latest prices on the Qantas website, the cheapest round trip to Rome we could find – including the non-stop service to Rome, with a stopover on the flight back to Perth – cost $2,681 AUD (£1,510 GBP) for two weeks in August (8 to 22).

Prices rose to $2,795 (£1,575) for two weeks in September (5 to 19) but were cheaper for two weeks in October (3 to 17) at $2,345 (£1,320)– though the latter includes a sale price of $940 for the one-way direct flight to Rome, down from $1,065.

If you’d prefer to pay in Qantas Points (or just want to know what you’d earn), this works out as:

Perth to Rome (August): 391,600 spent or 14,100 earned
Perth to Rome (September): 413,000 spent or 14,100 earned
Perth to Rome (October): 349,000 spent or 12,750 earned

Keep in mind that prices could fluctuate over time, and will depend on your exact dates, so use these as a guide – rather than exact figures – if you’re due to book flights soon. You can find the exact prices for your chosen travel dates using Qantas’ website.

Photo by Lea Scaddan / Getty Images.

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