Australia's flag carrier and its largest airline by fleet size, Qantas Airways, has announced that it had opted for Airbus' A350-1000 aircraft for its upcoming nonstop Sydney to London service that is expected to begin in the first half of 2023.
The Australian airline, however, has made it clear that it is not yet an order, but is working closely with Airbus to prepare a contract to purchase 12 planes to be reviewed by its executive committee by March 2020.
Singapore Airlines operates the world's current longest flight, almost 19 hours from Singapore to NY, using an ultra-long range version of the smaller A350-900.
Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline "had a lot of confidence" in the market for non-stop services from Sydney to London and to NY based on two years of flying non-stop from Perth to London, where it has achieved a 30% fare premium over one-stop rivals in premium classes.
Airbus will add an extra fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight of its jet to achieve the performance required for such long distances.
In addition to tailoring its aircraft, Airbus gave Qantas more time to decide whether it would confirm an order for the jets, the airline said.
Qantas had the intention to make a "yes or no" decision on the Sunrise project by the end of this year. Qantas in negotiations with its pilots' union about these matters. QANTAS however has not yet committed to placing an actual order for the A350-1000 as this is still contingent on several issues. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long haul routes if we want it to. Trial versions of these routes have been operated with limited capacity test flights using the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, with the intent on discovering how to best sculpt the service and soft products on board such extensive flights of around 19 hours duration.
Design of the customer experience for flights up to 21 hours continues, including new cabins across First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. According to QANTAS CASA sees no obstacles in granting regulatory approval. "We'll only commit to this investment if we know it will generate the right return for our shareholders given the inherent commercial risks", Joyce said in his statement. "We're offering promotions and an increase in pay but we're asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs", Joyce said.