Ultra-long range flight “trials” and PR magic behind them
Over the past few months, a lot of noise had been generated by airlines regarding their ultra-long-range flights. Behind the trials of these flights, stands one overlooked element – the magic of public relations (PR).
Project Sunrise, announced by Qantas on August 25, 2017, has been a true hit. Especially over the past few months, when the trials of flights between Sydney and two major capitals, namely New York and London, were conducted by the Australian flag carrier. Both flights, operated under Qantas’ code QF7879, hinting at the aircraft used, landed successfully in Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) on October 20 from New York and on November 15, 2019, from London.
And this is where the project gets interesting – on both flights, media personalities were present: filming, posting on social media and again, generating buzz.
The same hashtag generated quite the results. With thousands of posts with the # on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, the trial flights were the talk of the town as they landed in Sydney. Some YouTube videos about Sunrise climb into the 40-50 thousand views range, while one exploded to 1.7 million views. The crème de la crème of aviation’s personalities were sharing their opinions about the flights, including reviews about the 19-hour journey on board a Dreamliner.
Qantas’ Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce called the direct flight from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Sydney (SYD) a “historic moment for Qantas, Australian aviation and world aviation,” shortly after the Dreamliner landed in the Australian city after being in the air for 19 hours and 16 minutes.
Qantas service to New York from Sydney via Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) takes up roughly 20 hours of total flight time in the air. If a passenger were to fly from JFK to SYD via LAX, he would have a four-hour layover in LAX, before continuing on the journey on an Airbus A380 to the biggest city in Australia. The nation’s flag carrier uses “Fifth freedom” flight rights between JFK and LAX, as neither the origin nor the destination airport are located in Qantas’ home country. Thus, as a mere mortal, would a passenger choose to sit for 19 hours in Economy class, instead of having a four-hour layover in L.A., where he could stretch legs properly and grab a bite to eat without the food tasting the way it tastes mid-air?
Furthermore, Singapore Airlines had been operating flights between Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, just nine miles (14 kilometers) from the heart of The Big Apple since 2018. Flight SQ22 takes up around 18 hours, depending on wind, weather conditions and the origin airport, making it just an hour shorter than both Project Sunrise flights.
No trials preceded Singapore Airlines’ direct connection with the A350-900ULR. No trials preceded the Singaporean carrier’s previous record-breaking journey between the city-state and Newark when it first flew the same route using an Airbus A340-500 between 2004 and 2013. Then, the first EWR – SIN direct flight took “just under 18 and a half hours,” highlights Singapore Airlines’ FY 2003/2004 annual report.
So, does a flight that is an hour longer really warrant medical and passenger experience research considering what followed Qantas‘ Dreamliner arrival from London?
Celebrations and second thoughts
The second sunrise flight landed on November 15, 2019, arriving at 12:28 PM from London Heathrow International Airport (LHR). The press release announcing the arrival of the “research” flight also announced the Centenary program – a 12-month celebratory period to commemorate Qantas’ 100 year anniversary in November 2020. The same 787-9 that arrived from London was painted in a special livery, showcasing every logo the Australian company had used over the years. Royal Australian Mint revealed a special AUD1 coin to congratulate the airline with its century of operations. Out of the total 10 paragraphs in the press release, seven of them talked about Qantas’ anniversary, rather than the “research flight” itself, the aim of which is “improving crew and passenger wellbeing on ultra-long-haul services under consideration.”
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