Qantas announces major aircraft order to prepare for Project Sunrise

Australian flag carrier Qantas has announced major Airbus aircraft orders for both its international and domestic routes.

The announcement made on May 2, 2022, disclosed that Qantas ordered 12 A350-1000 aircraft from Airbus to be used on what will be the world’s longest direct commercial flight from Sydney to London, as well as 40 narrowbody jets to renew the airline’s domestic fleet. 

Qantas said that the 12 Airbus A350-1000s will be ordered to operate ‘Project Sunrise’, non-stop flights from Australia to other cities including New York and London. These aircraft are scheduled to start operating by the end of year 2025 from Sydney.

First announced in August 2017, Qantas has long prepared for ‘Project Sunrise’, with the pandemic delaying its launch. 

Prior to the pandemic, the airline had done a series of test flights, and based on pilot performance, passenger comfort, and ultra-long-haul flight requirements, Qantas had picked out the Airbus A350-1000 to operate the route. 

The airline says the planes will be “capable of flying direct from Australia to any other city” in the world, while being 25% more fuel-efficient than previous aircraft.

The projected 20-hour Sydney to London service would become the longest commercial flight in the world.

Domestically, Qantas said that it will start the renewal of its narrow-body jets as part of ‘Project Winton’ with firm orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s as the airline’s Boeing 737s and 717s are gradually retired. The first of these aircraft will start to arrive in late 2023.

The order includes purchase right options for another 94 aircraft for delivery through to at least 2034.

“We have come through the other side of the pandemic a structurally different company,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement. “Our domestic market share is higher and the demand for direct international flights is even stronger than it was before COVID. The business case for Project Sunrise has an internal rate of return in the mid-teens.”

Joyce added: “The Board’s decision to approve what is the largest aircraft order in Australian aviation is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the Qantas Group. Our strategy for these aircraft will see us generate significant benefits for those who make it possible – our people, our customers and our shareholders.”

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