Qantas Puts the Brakes on Project Sunrise

Australia’s flag carrier will be postponing the launch of the world’s longest nonstop flights due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus crisis.

A rendering of Qantas’s Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. (Source: Qantas)

With the Covid-19 pandemic largely grounding the fleets of major airlines across the globe, it’s easy to see why aviation companies are deferring orders for new aircraft from manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus. Qantas is no exception. According to Executive Traveller, its group CEO Alan Joyce has confirmed the delay of a much-awaited order for Airbus A350-1000 aircraft intended for Project Sunrise, the plan to launch nonstop services from cities on Australia’s east coast (specifically Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne) to London, Paris, and New York by the middle of 2023.

Operated exclusively with A350s, these ultra-long-haul flights would require customers to spend 18–20 hours in the air each way, making them among the longest scheduled passenger routes anywhere in the world. (The current record-holder for that is Singapore Airlines’ nonstop service between Singapore and Newark, which takes about 18 hours and 25 minutes on the eastbound journey.) Project Sunrise is set to cut down on existing travel times and save passengers up to four hours on the Kangaroo Route.

Joyce told Executive Traveller that the time for pursuing Project Sunrise was “not right now,” although the Qantas Group remained hopeful that it would resume at an undetermined date in the future. He said the company’s Airbus A350 aircraft orders slated for December 2020 would be pushed back further, to a point “when Qantas is in a position to commit to more aircraft and more capital.”

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