By this stage, most of us have come to terms with the fact that jetting off to USA or Europe is a seriously long slog, made worse by unavoidable (sometimes long, always painful) stopovers. But that European or American trip looks set to become a whole lot more bearable, with Qantas on track with its plans to launch direct flights between the east coast and both London and New York, by 2022.
Last year, the airline announced that it was exploring non-stop routes from Sydney — routes that would eclipse the company's direct flights between Perth and London, which launched in March this year. Now CEO Alan Joyce has told Bloomberg that the plan, called Project Sunrise, looks set to become a reality.
The key factor is the most obvious one: planes that can handle the trip. The extra distance involved with flights from the east coast capitals to London and New York is something that none of today's planes can manage, so the airline put out a call to Airbus and Boeing, the world's biggest aircraft manufacturers, to make an aircraft that can go the distance. Joyce now says "we're now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it".
In numbers, the planes will need to be able to handle a 20-hour and 20-minute stint between Sydney and London (16,983 kilometres), and an 18-hour and seven-minute journey from Sydney to New York. The airline has done its homework, analysing a decade's worth of wind and weather data to confirm the routes are actually possible — but it needs the planes to fly it.
Those planes could come equipped with extra facilities — such as bunks and workout spaces — to help combat the lengthy time travellers will spend in the air in one stint. And, if and when the new routes are up and running, Qantas will look at direct connections between Australia and other places around the globe, with spots in the Americas, Europe and Africa on the company's list.
Right now, the world's longest direct flight clocks in at around 18 hours and 14,529 kilometres, running between Doha and Auckland on a Boeing 777-200LR. That'll change in October, when Singapore Airlines launch its Singapore-to-New York route, which spans 15,322-kilometre and takes over 19 hours.