Qantas Project Sunrise: Dead or alive? No

With the two proposed aircraft, 777-X and A350-1000 rejected by Qantas, at least in their present form, complex union and corporate politics seem to be pressing the negatives home.

Qantas pilots when introducing the 787-9, felt they gave too much away to the company when negotiating terms and conditions and don’t want to do the same again.

As a result, they may not be willing to agree to terms Qantas can live with – and that make the flights viable.

The rejection of the two available aircraft types isn’t conclusive – both can go some way to resolving Qantas’ requirements. The main requirement was 300 passengers but the reality is it would have to be fewer – and still be profitable if it concentrates of premium seating.

The 787-9 test programme is said to have gone well and the delivery test flights carrying just 40 passengers provided plenty of information.

Yet in the end it’s all about the economics and Qantas has said, if it can’t be made to work they’ll drop the concept.

This week Qantas hold a major board meeting at which the way forward will be top of the agenda.

I suspect it’s too soon to can the whole project yet. It’s a big advance and it’s going to take time. Pioneering projects always do.

However…there’s another airline that sort of suggested back at the Dubai Air Show, it wouldn’t mind having a go at direct flights from London. Qantas’ CEO laughed it off, but don’t underestimate the possibilities.

Virgin Atlantic have been wanting to go back to Australia for ages. They and BA were the only European airlines flying there until exchange rates forced Virgin Atlantic to give up an otherwise profitable route several years ago.

The airline is in a far better place, the economics of a return are pressing and positive. The airline is already learning how well the A350-1000 performs.

And with Branson’s recent decision to keep control, the idea of direct flights for an airline that knows how to operate premium services and has only ever specialised in long haul, it’s daring and breakthrough enough to be attractive. If there was ever an airline to take the risk and see the publicity value – it’s Virgin Atlantic.

If I was on Virgin Atlantic’s Board, I’d vote yes!