Project Sunrise from Qantas is a specially quipped Airbus A350-1000 that will connect cities like London and New York directly to Sydney, Australia.
The current longest flight in the world is Singapore Airline’s SQ23, which connects New York JFK and Singapore. The total time of that flight is just a hair under 19 hours and utilizes an Airbus A350-900ULR specially prepared for this route.
Qantas clearly saw this record and said “Hold my Fosters!”
Australia’s national carrier just put in an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s to connect the country to major cities around the world that previously required at least one connection. The plan is for flights up to 20 hours.
How do you do this without running out of fuel or making everyone on board miserable?
First, you cut people. The total number of seats is 238 spread across four classes. By reducing passengers you reduce the amount of weight (not just passengers but luggage, safety equipment, the seats themselves, food). The total range is 8,700 nautical miles. To put that in perspective, the circumference of the earth in nautical miles is 21,600nm at the equator.
Now that you’ve got enough fuel, how do you assure the passengers don’t lose their minds? If you’re in one of the six First Class suites it’s pretty easy. You basically have a small room, with a door, a chair, and a completely separate bed. Just turn on your 32-inch television, order some champagne and kick back.
Arguably, the 52 Business Suites are not a bad place to be either. Sure, your seat is also your bed, but they’re pretty spacious. The 40 Premium Economy seats? With 40 inches of pitch they’re on par with First Class seats on domestic flights.
The Economy seats are, well, economy seats. There are 140 of them in a 3-3-3 configuration. I’m sure they’re fine, but that doesn’t sound fun to me. In order to make this flight slightly more palatable to fliers the airline has created a “Wellbeing Zone.”
This is a very spa-looking section between the Premium Economy and Economy sections that features a large standing area full of snacks, water for hydration, and screens that guide passengers through a series of stretches to help them feel comfortable and avoid DVT.
With the inevitable retirement of the A380 it’s clear that smaller, fewer, longer has won out over bigger and slower.