Qantas intends to fly between London and Australia non-stop when the carrier takes delivery of fits first 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft from Boeing. The new flight will be the first to connect the two countries without a pit-stop en route and, at just over 9,000 miles, represent one of the longest flights in the world. Service will begin in March 2018; tickets will go on sale in April 2017.
Europe just got a whole lot closer. Non-stop flights from Perth to London beginning March 2018. The first route for our Qantas Dreamliners. pic.twitter.com/qtPhl60yqx
— Qantas (@Qantas) December 11, 2016
This is not the first time such service has been discussed. In 2013 Thomson Airways suggested that it might want to connect the two cities using its growing fleet of 787s. Ultimately the carrier chose to focus more on Caribbean markets for its growth. Still, the 787 can support the route and Qantas believes it can drive the business model to draw passengers to the 17+ hour non-stop service. CEO Alan Joyce suggested in a statement that the new route offers benefits for travelers and for the tourism and business segments in Western Australia:
It’s great news for travellers because it will make it easier to get to London. It’s great news for Western Australia because it will bring jobs and tourism. And it’s great news for the nation, because it will bring us closer to one of our biggest trade partners and sources of visitors….
A direct flight makes travelling to Australia a much more attractive proposition to millions of people. We expect many travellers from Europe will start their time in Australia with a visit to Perth before going on to see other parts of the country.
Specific departure times are not yet available as the company works to optimize connections. The service will operate from the carrier’s “domestic” terminal in Perth which will be reconfigured to support international traffic. That will improve connecting flow for travelers on the London route as well as Singapore and Auckland flights which will consolidate to the terminal.
The 787-9 will be configured with 236 seats across business, premium economy and economy cabins. While Joyce specifically calls out the cabin design as supporting passenger comfort for such long flights (“[W]e have features in our Economy seats that other airlines reserve for Premium Economy … And we’re redesigning our on-board service to help reduce jetlag,”) the 17ish hour trip is still a very long time to spend in a 17” wide economy class seat.
For connecting passengers from major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland it does not appear that the new flight will reduce total travel time to London. The trip requires a break somewhere along the way and, while Perth is not out of the way it also is not more efficient than the current connections in the Middle East or Southeast Asia (or Los Angeles for Auckland). In that sense the new service faces plenty of challenges to draw passengers in. But also plenty of potential for building traffic on the western coast of Australia.
Header photo: Qantas 787-9; image courtesy of the airline
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