Qantas has announced it will begin operating non-stop flights from Sydney to London and New York from 2025.
Australia’s national carrier said it had purchased a new fleet of Airbus A350-1000 jets capable of direct flights to any city in the world.
The first Sydney-London flights will depart in late 2025 and take about 20 hours, making them the world’s longest passenger flights.
The route, launched in 1947, once took 58 hours and seven stops.
“It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance,” chief executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Qantas has been working on the plan – dubbed Project Sunrise – for about five years, but implementation has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2018 it began offering direct 17-hour direct flights between London and Perth in Western Australia, and in 2019 it conducted a series of test flights from the east coast to the UK and New York.
The new fleet of 12 planes will begin arriving in 2025, with the order to be completed by 2028.
The airline did not say how much it would charge for seats in its four classes: first, business, premium economy and economy.
Each plane will be able to carry 238 passengers with 40% of the cabin dedicated to premium seating. Seats will be roomier than usual, Qantas says.
Travellers will also be able to access a “wellbeing zone” in the centre of the plane – with a self-service snack bar and space for stretching and movement – to combat the effects of spending 20 hours in the air.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy firm The PC Agency, said the success of the route relied on a cheaper price to attract travellers – who would otherwise break their journey with a stop in the Middle East.
The former Virgin Atlantic communications director said: “It’s fine if you’re in business class and at the front of the plane with more space, but if you’re flying economy most people will want to break their journey and it would be a very tough 20-hour flight.
“The only way to attract travellers to use that service will be to have a really cheap fare, and this will create a price war because you’ll find the Middle East airlines will fight to attract passengers to fly to Australia and reduce their prices too.”
He predicted Qantas would have a challenge on their hands to make the flight comfortable and entertaining for passengers, as well as ensuring their wellbeing would not be affected by such a long flight.
But Mr Charles added other airlines would follow suit with ultra-long flights, if Qantas showed there was the demand.
“The question is in 2025 when this is due to launch, what will the world look like?” he said.
“Will we want to fly such long-haul routes or will consumers want to fly short-haul on more environmentally friendly flights that are shorter in duration?”
Currently Qantas operates non-stop flights between UK and Australia, with Boeing 787s linking London’s Heathrow Airport and the Northern Territory city of Darwin.
The flight from Australia takes about 17 hours, and the return journey is about 16 hours long.(BBC)