Qantas promises non-stop flights from London to Sydney, the longest direct commercial flight

The Australian airline has ordered twelve airbuses capable of flying non-stop to the UK and the US.

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Qantas has promised to start direct flights from Sydney to London by late 2025.

The Australian airline has ordered twelve airbuses capable of flying non-stop to the UK and the US’s major cities.

The long haul Sydney-London flight will take roughly 20 hours, making it one of the world’s longest. Qantas already provides a direct 17-hour flight between London and Perth.

The airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce called it “the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance”.

The Airbus A350-1000 is seen in the aerial display during the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, February 15
The Airbus A350-1000 is seen in the aerial display during the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, February 15

“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia,” he said.

Mr Joyce added that the new aircrafts would “reduce emissions by at least 15% if running on fossil fuels, and significantly better when run on sustainable aviation fuel”.

“This order brings us closer to our commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

"Since the start of the calendar year, we have seen huge increases in demand," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters at Sydney Airport, where an Airbus A350-1000 test plane flown from France emblazoned with the Qantas logo and "Our Spirit flies further" was parked in a hangar as a backdrop for the announcement.

Qantas shares surged as much as 5.5% on Monday to the highest level since November after it also said debt levels had fallen to pre-Covd levels faster than the market's expectations.

The A350-1000 order was the culmination of a challenge called "Project Sunrise" set for Airbus and its rival Boeing Co BA.N in 2017 to create aircraft capable of the record-breaking flights.

An Airbus A350-1000 test plane arrives at Sydney Airport as the backdrop for Qantas announcing an order for 12 of the planes in Sydney, Australia
An Airbus A350-1000 test plane arrives at Sydney Airport as the backdrop for Qantas announcing an order for 12 of the planes in Sydney, Australia

Airbus was selected as the preferred supplier in late 2019, but Qantas delayed placing an order for two years due to financial challenges during the pandemic.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said the aircraft to be used on the Sydney-London flights would offer more fuel storage than A350-1000s currently in operation with other airlines.

The Qantas planes will carry passengers across four classes and will have around 100 fewer seats than rivals British Airways ICAG.L and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd 0293.HK use on their A350-1000s. The Australian carrier will dedicate more than 40% of the jets' cabins to premium seating.

CEO Joyce said demand for non-stop flights had grown since the pandemic, when complex travel rules were put in place. Rising fuel costs could be recovered through higher fares, he said, as the airline had done previously on its non-stop Perth-London flights.

In a market update, Qantas said while it expects an underlying operating loss for the financial year ending June 30, 2022, the second half would benefit from improved domestic and international demand, with free cash flow seen rising further in the current quarter.