Having engineered a world first with non-stop flights between Australia and London beginning last year, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has another grand vision on his plate. The name is Project Sunrise, east coast Australia to London in a single bound, non-stop, with a target date of 2022.
From Sydney, the most distant of Australia's mainland east coast state capitals, the distance to London is just shy of 17,000 kilometres. The only aircraft currently available that could operate non-stop over that distance is the Airbus A350-900 ULR, which has a range of 18,000 kilometres. So far the only airline with this marathon runner in its fleet is Singapore Airlines, which has acquired the A350-900 ULR for one specific use, when it once again offers non-stop flights between Singapore and Newark's Liberty International Airport, starting this month.
If Qantas chooses that aircraft for Project Sunrise, or if Boeing comes up with a similarly long-legged competitor, the next logical step would be using the same aircraft for non-stop flights from east coast Australia to New York City. Melbourne to New York is 16,662 kilometres, from Sydney it's 15,979 kilometres. With these long-haul destinations in the Qantas trophy cabinet there's a whole new list of destinations crying out for non-stop flights from Australia's capitals.
Non-Stop options we'd like to see
At the moment the gorgeous islands of French Polynesia are a one-stop flight from Australia's east coast cities via New Zealand. It takes more than nine hours to get there, and at least 18 hours to get back (transit times in Auckland are often long, depending on your city), but a non-stop flight would cut that to around seven-and-a-half hours and add a glamorous stopover to the list of possibilities en route to the US.
The Greek capital is 14,940 kilometres from Melbourne, 15,182 from Brisbane and 15,317 from Sydney. That puts it within the range of the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777-200LR. Leave any east coast city at midday on a non-stop flight and you could be lunching on grilled octopus with a fetta cheese salad on a Greek island the next day.
London from the east coast is the ultimate quest for Qantas non-stop flights, but once accomplished, Paris deserves a place on the podium. Travellers could enter at one of these two cities, travel around the UK and Europe and return via the other.
Air India is the only airline operating non-stop flights between Sydney or Melbourne and India, to New Delhi. Given the number of Australian residents of Indian origin and the volume of tourist traffic, that's a head scratcher. How great would it be if Qantas were to resume non-stop flights to Mumbai, now a distant memory.
At the moment the only gateway cities that are available to Australians wanting to travel to South America without transiting through the US are Santiago and Buenos Aires. How convenient would it be if Australians had another gateway, and Mexico City is the standout choice. Mexico is part of North America, but a non-stop flight from east coast Australia to Mexico City would open up realms of possibilities, from Mexico in the north to Panama in the south, plus easy access to the Caribbean Islands.
Are non-stop flights cheaper?
A single, non-stop flight from city A to B is going to use less fuel and save on landing fees compared with a flight that stops in between the two. You might think therefore that a non-stop flight would be cheaper than a flight with one or more stops, but that's not what happens. On long-haul flights from Australia, a survey of prices suggests that a non-stop flight costs more than a direct flight between the same cities with one or more stops.
Inputting the dates of October 11 for the outward bound flight and October 25 for the return, a non-stop return flight from Perth to London with Qantas will cost a shade over $2000, but if you're prepared to make it a one-stop flight over and back, flying aboard the same airline and codeshare partners, you can save yourself around $700.
A return ticket from Sydney to Vancouver on the same dates can cost as little as $950 if you're prepared for a multi-stop trip flying China Eastern, but a non-stop flight with Air Canada will set you back $1795.
Melbourne to Los Angeles could cost just $926 for a one-stop flight with Fiji Airways, but $1312 if you fly non-stop with United Airlines, currently the least expensive of the airlines that operate non-stop flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles.
Where is your dream destination for a non-stop flight from Australia? Post your comments below.