How Qantas will help you cope with 20-hour flights from Sydney to London
Onboard cafes and gyms are under consideration for next-generation aircraft.
Qantas' most ambitious current plan is "Project Sunrise", designed to deliver non-stop flights from Australia's east coast to either London or New York by 2022. The airline launched its 17-hour Perth to London flight in March 2018, but that still requires a stopover for anyone travelling from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
The most challenging aspect for Project Sunrise is making sure the flight can reliably make the journey without running out of fuel. That will require careful aircraft customisation, as well as route optimisation (and a brutal approach to excess baggage). Boeing's 777X and Airbus' A350 are both under consideration, with an announcement on which craft will be used expected later in 2019.
Another difficulty is working out how to make sure passengers don't go utterly stir-crazy when stuck on an aircraft for 20 hours straight. I've done the 15-hour leg from Sydney to Dallas several times, and the extra couple of hours compared to a Los Angeles service is really noticeable. Adding another five hours would almost certainly require me to break my longstanding rule of not using the toilet on long-haul flights.
Today Qantas revealed the results of passenger research it has conducted with Sydney University's Charles Perkins Centre to identify how a journey of that length can be made more pleasant/tolerable. The two organisations have previously collaborated on a menu designed to reduce jet lag on the Perth to London route.
These were the top five requests from passengers for the new service, according to the research:
- Space to do gentle exercises and stretches. Qantas already runs pre-flight stretching routines for passengers on the Perth to London route, so this is a logical extension.
- An in-flight cafe space serving food and drinks. Customers can already top themselves up with non-alcoholic drinks on A380 services, but this would be an expanded model that also offers booze and snacks.
- Wireless noise cancelling headsets. One of the minor hassles of many Qantas flights is faults in the wired headphones, meaning they only work at very particular angles. Wireless would solve that, though presumably they'd need the same alarm system used for in-flight iPads to stop customers from stealing them.
- Improved entertainment options that make it easier to "zone out". This could include virtual reality or "audio mindfulness experiences".
- Enhanced cabin design. Making all those changes will require a shift from the conventional first/business/premium economy/economy layout. Qantas says it plans to offer "both seat and non-seat spaces to focus on a broad range of traveller needs including comfort, sleep, dining, entertainment and state of mind". Right, then.
"Our job now is to determine where the most demand is and create this cabin in a way that makes it both affordable for customers and commercially viable for the airline," Qantas International CEO Alison Webster said. "Everything is on the table and we are excited about what innovations may come from this research."
The point about it being "commercially viable" is worth noting. Yes, it would be lovely to have a space where you can strike a few yoga poses mid-flight or a cafe where you can pull up for a quick chai, but that space would be more profitable if it contained more seats with paying passengers. Striking that balance will be the real trick.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.