The Australian air carrier Qantas Airways chose a city for the launch of its highly anticipated Project Sunrise.
On May 6, 2021, Qantas Airways announced that Sydney would be the launch city to start its ultra-long-range direct non-stop flights to London and New York. However, the launch will have to wait until“the international air travel recovers” and “the long-awaited investment goes ahead,” as written in the company’s statement.
However, the Australian airline did not specify the exact date when the temporarily suspended project is planned to be launched.
“Aviation has probably taken the biggest hit of any industry from the COVID crisis, and Qantas has seen $11 billion in revenue evaporate because of state and federal travel restrictions,” Alan Joyce, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Qantas Group, was quoted as saying in the statement. “Under those circumstances, we had to look seriously at every part of our business and that’s why reviewing our property footprint became part of our recovery program.“
Having started working on the project in August 2017 with initial expectations for take-off in 2023, the airline decided to take a break from the further development of the issue due to the ongoing pandemic. Before the virus froze the global aviation industry, Qantas Airways had done three test flights during which the airline was testing pilot performance as well as passenger comfort and well-being aspects onboard an ultra-long flight.
The air carrier had already picked the exact aircraft model to operate the non-stop service and was weeks away from ordering the Airbus A350-1000 jet, equipped with extra fuel tanks for the long 18 to 20-hour-long routes. Qantas Airways was also considering ordering 12 A350s, valued at $317.4 million per unit at list prices, and in March 2020, even reached an agreement with the Australian and International Pilots Associations over a new pay deal for the ultra-long-haul operations. But then COVID-19 hit, and like at many air carriers across the globe, the airline’s expenses had to be limited.
In April 2021, the CEO hinted a further project development could be resumed in 2021 with prospects to launch non-stop flights directly connecting Sydney with London and New York in 2024, while predicting the extraordinarily high demand for ultra-long-haul services post-pandemic.