Qantas: Airbus & Boeing get a ‘no’ for Project Sunrise

“Sharpen your pencils and get back to the drawing board” was the message from a Qantas yesterday to both Boeing and Airbus.

The airline rejected the A350-1000ULR and the 777-8ER proposals on offer saying they just didn’t deliver.

So what was missing? Range wasn’t the issue. Sort of. What seems to be inadequate is load capacity passenger wise – so range is an issue because to get range they cut the passenger load.

Reliability questions were also an issue, and that wasn’t so much that they were mechanically viable, but that they would deliver what they said they would in terms of fuel burn and range.

These guarantees have been issued by Boeing in the past – 788’s and 748’s were both seriously flawed when first delivered for example. 788’s were over weight and the 748 fuel burn was said to be 15% above its promises, requiring major engine revisions and wing fixes.

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, said that he wasn’t overly concerned if the airline had to turn round and say “well we tried and it didn’t work this time”, but who knows when it will?

Meanwhile Airbus have put a lot of effort into it and they’re not going to waste it. Because clearly it’s an idea that can work if someone makes it happen.

I’ve said all along that other airlines will want to leap on the bandwagon if it can be made viable. And there’s one airline that’s been chomping at the bit to get back into the Australian market.

It’s Group Chairman (he has nothing to do with day to day operations anymore) Sir Richard Branson, was wheeled out for the roll out of Virgin Galactic in Dubai. And he was quick to suggest that Virgin Atlantic would be keen to take the same path of non-stop flights to Sydney.

You have to remind yourself he’ll say anything for a bit of publicity, but it’s actually far more likely than you’d think.

For one, it’s very much on-brand. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s marginally risky and pioneering, and it would put Virgin Atlantic ahead of BA. On top of that Virgin Atlantic had a superb reputation in Sydney, it’s route made money – only exchange rates during the recession made it unviable. They really want to go back. And the premium price point fits with their profile.

So don’t rule it out. And I don’t think Qantas want to either. There’s a way forward, maybe it takes longer but eventually it will happen. When Qantas have gone as far as thinking about the super first class plus idea they have for the route, they’re pretty much mentally if not practically committed.