Despite the miracle that is the technology of flight, few things are as bemoaned as air travel. From the panic that is check-in and going through copious security ports, all while frantically unpacking your carry on and, more often than not, parting ways with some kind of grooming essential that defies the 50mL ruling, to having to time your bathroom runs with any moment that passenger sitting in the aisle rises. Then there’s the challenge that is showing decorum when the person in front of you reclines their seat all the way back, crushing your knees in the process. Safe to say, though we missed travelling during lockdown and the restrictions posed by Covid, you need only spend an hour or two on a plane to remember what exactly it is you’re missing: the butt-crush that is accumulated hours spent seated. But with Qantas now introducing ‘Project Sunrise’ flights, it could just be the best decision for those willing to endure 20 hours in the air.
It should be said that while 20 hours certainly sounds like an obscene amount of time to spend airborne, the flights have been in development for some five years, undergoing elaborate testing to ensure the utmost in safety. Qantas made the announcement of the new flights, which will now provide non-stop services from Sydney and Melbourne to New York City and London by mid-2025, with the possibility of Paris also being added as a Project Sunrise destination. Thanks to an incoming fleet of 12 specialised Airbus A350-1000 aircrafts, these long-haul flights will be possible.
If your interest has been piqued and you’re rearing to go, there will still be quite a wait as currently, Qantas is awaiting the delivery of these planes that come courtesy of a multibillion-dollar order placed with the European plane-maker that was derailed by Covid. The planes are significant, showcasing the collaborative efforts of Qantas and Airbus by providing more muscle, fuel and capacity than the A350-900 aircraft. With an extra fuel tank and several other design changes, it means the aircrafts can fly non-stop for over 20 hours without needing to stop anywhere for refuelling purposes.
The announcement sees Qantas become the first airline to offer such flights into major hubs without any layovers. As Alan Joyce said in a statement, “The 350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance. As you’d expect, the cabin is being specially designed for maximum comfort in all classes for long-haul flying.”
Yep, expect extra leg room on these flights as Qantas has fitted out the planes with premium seats, understanding that those willing to travel the distance are likely to be willing to pay more to avoid stopovers. The flights will have capacity for 238 passengers across four cabins, with six suits in First Class, 52 in Business Class, 40 in Premium Economy and 140 in Economy. Aircrafts will also feature dedicated “wellbeing zones” between the two Economy products, allowing passengers the chance to get up and move, stretching their legs and hydrating. Business class features direct aisle access for all passengers and a self-service Bar Zone, while First Class includes six enclosed suites in a 1:1:1 configuration, each featuring a separate recliner lounge chair and ergonomic bed.
Project Sunrise has been a long-time coming, but simply looking at images of the design suggest that it’s been worth the wait. The first fleet of Airbus A350-1000 models is slated to arrive in mid-2025, at which point the flights can soon commence. The first destinations on the schedule appear to be London and New York City, with potential for Paris and some other cities in Frankfurt to be added later on.