Qantas’ Project Sunrise, which promised to connect Sydney with London and New York directly, hit headlines like no other in 2019. Unfortunately, the current coronavirus crisis had derailed those plans. Now, the airline’s chief executive provided an updated timeline on the project.

“Before COVID-19, we had done three test flights. They were an amazing experience and we used them as test-research flights. Testing how our frequent flyers would feel, looking at pilot fatigue issues," commented on Project Sunrise Qantas Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Joyce during EUROCONTROL’s Aviation StraightTalk. "So, we were taking it unbelievably seriously. We had designed a product, we had picked an aircraft, the A350-1000 and we were weeks away from ordering it."

According to Joyce, the Australian airline struck a deal with Airbus and the aircraft was capable of flying between Sydney and London and New York. A special ultra-long-haul cabin product was also designed and 86% of Qantas pilots agreed to a new enterprise agreement, added the Irishman.

With the Australian and International Pilots Association's approval of a new pay deal, Project Sunrise finally cleared its final hurdle. 

“So we were planning to order the aircraft and to eventually introduce that [Project Sunrise – ed. note] in 2023,” indicated Joyce. “We still want to revisit it at the end of 2021 with the potential of doing it in 2024 and onwards,” he provided a timeframe.

The executive believes that even if the economic case for the ultra-long-haul flights was very strong prior to the current operating environment, now, it is even stronger.

“We’re still very keen on it and we think that is one of the big things that will change in the next decade and allow us to have a sustainable competitive advantage that nobody else is probably going to introduce,” concluded Joyce.

Project Sunrise, seemingly, created magic within the industry. Trialing 19-hour flights, Qantas for sure put a lot of attention into getting the word out, especially considering that there are other flights with similar flight hours. At the same time, has it created a trend of airlines announcing trial flights? Exploring the PR magic behind ultra-long-range trial flights: