Qantas tests Ultra Long Range flights and passenger wellbeing

Qantas is to use delivery flights of 787-9’s and re-route them to London and New York. Forty Qantas staff will be set up with medical testing equipment to gauge their comfort and responses at different stages in the journey to Sydney.

The airline is still on track to commence its Project Sunrise ULR flights – non-stop from London and New York – in 2022.

What the airline needs to understand is with flights that gate to gate, could easily reach 22-24 hours, how passengers will feel and what the airline will have to do to make the flights viable and, importantly, desirable.

The 19 hour flights from Perth to London have met with mixed reviews. Economy passengers see it as pushing their limits to the maximum, and as a means to an end, not an experience to be savoured.

It’s much the same even in Premium, and while business passengers are more cosseted and have better facilities, including beds, even they don’t feel like it’s more than simply an acceptable, but not desirable time period to fly.

Part of this may be Qantas choice of cabin layout. It’s not especially adventurous and isn’t considered the top line by any means, being pretty much off the shelf kit.

Rumour that Boeing are to offer an extended range 787-9 to compete against the A350’s are just that. If it doesn’t have engineering resources to manage the 777-8 and the ULR it certainly doesn’t have resources to manage that.

Qantas isn’t the first to offer such lengthy flights – Singapore airlines direct to JFK have no economy seating, a handful of Premium and the rest entirely business class is their A359ULR layout.

Will Qantas have to go the same way? Is it simply too much to expect anyone to be happy in one 17.4″ wide economy seat for 23 hours?

The flights will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, toilet use and movement patterns.

All of which may come to nothing. Alain Joyce was quick to point out, in the end it’s a business decision and if the flights aren’t truly viable, they won’t go ahead.