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Qantas has announced it will launch non-stop flights from Australia's eastern capitals to New York and London by 2022 – if Airbus or Boeing can deliver a plane capable of flying the distance.
The airline has thrown down the challenge to the world's two largest plane manufacturers to deliver an aircraft that can fly from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to London and New York without the need for a stopover.
No aircraft flying today can cover these distances – at least not when loaded with passengers and luggage. At present the world's longest flight route is Qatar Airways' non-stop flight from Doha to Auckland, which covers a distance of 14,529 kilometres and takes more than 17 hours. The airline flies a Boeing 777-200LR (for "long range") on the route.
Qantas' numbers put non-stop flights from Sydney to London at 20 hours, 20 minutes and to New York at 18 hours, seven minutes. This would save three hours and 45 minutes on journeys to London and two hours and 43 minutes on journeys to New York, mostly through eliminating the time taken for stopover.
The airline has analysed 10 years' worth of wind and weather data to determine the feasibility and efficiency of the routes.
Two aircraft have ranges that come close to the distance required: the long-range version the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777X, which is under development. Qantas has called on the manufacturers to extend the range of their new aircraft to make the routes possible.
The airline has long desired to fly passengers from Australia to New York non-stop. In 2015 Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the route was the "holy grail" for the airline, with many Qantas passengers already having New York as their final destination on flights.
While more than 20 hours on a plane may seem a long time, spare a thought for the passengers who first flew on the "Kangaroo Route" to London when Qantas launched it in 1947. Back then the journey took four days and required seven stops. In the '70s this became 30 hours and four stops and in 1989 the single-stop journey was introduced.
Qantas will already have non-stop flights from Australia to London up and running next year, when it launches its new Perth-London route. The first flight is set to take off on March 24, 2018.
The airline also announced it would revamp its A380 superjumbo interiors, redesigning the passenger lounge and installing the latest business class suites to replace the Skybed. Qantas will also redesign its Melbourne Airport lounges to accommodate more passengers.
Qantas' new design for its A380 superjumbo on-board lounge.
The world's longest flights (including two of Qantas' proposed routes)
- Sydney to London, Qantas (proposed) 16,983km
- Melbourne to New York, Qantas (proposed) 16,662 km
- Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 14,529km
- Dubai-Auckland, Emirates, 14,200 km
- Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 13,804km
- San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 13,592km
- Atlanta-Johannesburg, Delta, 13,581km
- Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles, Etihad, 13,502km
- Dubai-Los Angeles, Emirates, 13,420km
- Jeddah-Los Angeles, Saudia, 13,409km
- Doha-Los Angeles, Qatar Airways, 13,367km
- Dubai-Houston, Emirates, 13,145km
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