Qantas has launched direct flights from Perth, Australia, to London, UK, with an inaugural flight on March 24, 2018. It was the first regular passenger flight that marked a major aviation milestone by directly linking Australia and Europe.

Flight QF9, which originated in Melbourne, left Perth at 6:50 p.m. AWST on March 24, 2018, and landed at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) at 5:02 a.m. GMT on March 25, 2018. The over 9,000 mile (14,500 km) flight operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and took just over 17 hours to complete.

In a press release on March 24, 2018, the Australian national carrier stated: “The history-making QF9, carrying more than 200 passengers and 16 crew members pushed back just before 7 pm on Saturday evening and landed in London at 5 am on Sunday. The return QF10 flight will depart London Heathrow at 2 pm on Sunday and land at 1 pm (local time) in Perth on Monday.”

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, who was one of the passengers on the inaugural flight, described it as a major milestone for Australia as well as global aviation. “This is a truly historic flight that opens up a new era of travel. For the first time, Australia and Europe have a direct air link,” said Joyce.

According to the Qantas chief, the original trip known as the Kangaroo Route from Australia to London was named for the seven stops it made over four days back in 1947. “Now we can do it in a single leap,” said Joyce. The new direct flight is the third longest commercial flight currently in operation, but the world’s longest Dreamliner flight.

Qantas states the direct flight reduces total travel time by eliminating stopovers and taking advantage of the most favorable winds on any given day without having to factor in a mid-point in the Middle East or Asia when choosing a flight path. The direct route will follow different flight paths depending on the best winds, the airline states.

Qantas customers can now choose from three routes between the UK and Australia – a daily Sydney to London Qantas A380 service via Singapore, a daily Qantas 787 Dreamliner service from Melbourne via Perth to London and daily services via Dubai with partner Emirates.

The daily QF9 will begin in Melbourne, flying to Perth before then flying non-stop to London. The airline has adjusted the timing of some domestic services into Perth so that passengers from Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane can join the flight to London.

What’s in it for Qantas

Qantas daily non-stop service will put Europe’s financial center one “hop” away from a city that is deemed as the capital of Australia’s mineral wealth and the operations of resources companies. Bloomberg notes that the service is part of Qantas ambitious plans for an ultra-long-haul network that the airline hopes will span the world by 2022.

But most importantly, the Perth-London service is being viewed as a boost to the economy in Western Australia, potentially attracting investment in travel, trade and infrastructure. Qantas will be able to use Perth as a hub for passengers from eastern Australia going to the UK, and this should advance employment and tourism in the region.

In an official press release, dating back to December 11, 2016, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce marked that the history-making route would be a watershed for travel, tourism and trade. According to Qantas, its modelling showed that people from Australia’s East Coast as well as South Australia would fly domestically to Perth to connect to the non-stop London service. “It’s great for Australian tourism, for business travelers and for people visiting friends and family on both sides of the world,” Joyce commented.

However, it seems that with this direct service, the airline is primarily targeting the business community. As Reuters reports, Qantas International CEO, Ali Webster, said Perth-London flights that originate in Melbourne were proving popular with corporate customers. “It works very well for business travelers who can stop in Perth on their way from the east coast for meetings before carrying on to London,” she said. “That’s exactly what a lot of our resources customers are doing.”

The spokesman for Qantas in Sydney, Andrew McGinnes, said bookings on the new route “have been strong”. According to him, corporate clients in eastern Australia have indicated they will stop in Perth for meetings on their way to London, which is why almost one third of the 236 seats on the aircraft are in business or premium-economy class. “It’s a very competitive market but this is a unique flight,” McGinnes was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.