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Qantas puts Project Sunrise on hold

Non-stop flights from Sydney, Melbourne to London, New York will have to take a stop for now

Qantas has suspended its plans for direct flights between Australia east coast to London and New York, also called Project Sunrise, due to uncertainty over travel demand even after Covid-19 fades.

Project Sunrise was set to launch by 2023, but in a report by Executive Traveller, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has confirmed that the project will be put on hold, for now.

A350 orders put on hold

Qantas has earlier announced that it would order 12 dedicated A350-1000 for this project. The final decision was meant to be made in March 2020, but of course in the face of Covid-19, this was quickly paused indefinitely. According to Executive Traveller, the dedicated fleet of up to 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets would have been “valued as high as $6.8bn (US$4.4bn) based on Airbus’ list price”,

Qantas announced Project Sunrise proposal as early as August 2017, initially mapping out potential non-stop destinations such as New York, London and Rio de Janeiro from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Proposed routes for Project Sunrise (source: Qantas)

The initial plan was ambitious: it was touted as a challenge to Boeing and Airbus to create an aircraft capable of flying full payload, both passenger and cargo, non-stop to these far-flung destinations, some with a flying time of up to 22 hours.

This was followed by union negotiations, technical discussions with the plane makers and even research flights to see how these ultra long haul flights will affect passengers and crew. Eventually, the airline conceded that a full payload wasn’t possible, and would settle for slightly less for a ‘viable commercial payload’.

In announcing the choice of the A350-1000, Qantas has also said that it will be configuring the aircraft in four cabins – first, business, premium economy and economy – as well as designing the seats in all cabins.

Unfortunately, this also means that the new designs will be put on hold for a few years, until we see the project dawn again.

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