Australian airline Qantas has announced it will launch the world’s first non-stop commercial flights from Sydney to London and New York by the end of 2025, finally conquering the “tyranny of distance”.
The airline announced the move after ordering a dozen special Airbus planes, and is set to charge higher fares in a multimillion-dollar bet that travelers will pay a premium to save four hours on the popular route.
The flights, which will launch in late 2025, will use A350-1000 aircraft, specially configured with extra-premium seating and reduced overall capacity, to carry up to 238 passengers on a 20-hour journey, the world’s longest direct commercial flight.
Announcing plans for the service, the loss-making airline said a strong recovery in the domestic market and signs of improving international flights after the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic had given it the confidence to make a great investment in your future. Qantas forecasts a return to profit in the fiscal year that begins this July.
The European planemaker’s order also includes 40 A321XLR and A220 narrow-body jets to begin the replacement of Qantas’s aging domestic fleet, with deliveries spread over a decade. The airline did not disclose the value of the Airbus deal, but analysts at Barrenjoey estimated in a client note that it would cost at least 6 billion Australian dollars.
“Since the start of the calendar year, we’ve seen big increases in demand,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said at Sydney airport, where an Airbus A350-1000 test plane flew from France bearing the Qantas logo. and “Our spirit flies further”. it was parked in a hangar as the backdrop for the ad.
Qantas shares rose as much as 5.5% to the highest level since November after it also said debt levels had fallen to pre-Covid levels faster than market expectations.
The A350-1000 order was the culmination of a challenge called “Project Sunrise” set for Airbus and rival Boeing Coin 2017 to create aircraft capable of breaking flight records.
Airbus was selected as the preferred supplier at the end of 2019, but Qantas delayed placing an order for two years due to financial challenges during the pandemic.
Airbus commercial director Christian Scherer said the plane to be used on the Sydney-London flights would offer more fuel storage than the A350-1000s currently in operation with other airlines.
The Qantas planes will carry passengers in four classes and have around 100 fewer seats than those used by rivals British Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd on their A350-1000s. The Australian airline will dedicate more than 40% of its jet cabins to premium seats.
Executive Director Joyce said the demand for nonstop flights had grown since the pandemic, when complex travel rules were put in place. Rising fuel costs could be recouped through higher fares, she said, as the airline had previously done on its nonstop Perth-London flights.
In a market update, Qantas said that while it expects an underlying operating loss for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the second half would benefit from improving domestic and international demand, with cash flow expected. of free cash increased even more in the current quarter.
Analysts at Barrenjoey forecast that Qantas could achieve a 20% revenue premium on ultra-long-haul flights, which Joyce said will also go to New York from late 2025 and possible future destinations such as Paris, Chicago and Rio de Janeiro. .