Qantas targets direct London-Sydney flights

Qantas aims to launch direct flights between London and Sydney by 2022 following the start of non-stop services between Heathrow and Perth this week.

Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive, hailed the first non-stop flights between Australia and Europe as “game-changing” and revealed the carrier’s ‘Project Sunrise’ plans to fly direct “from Sydney and Melbourne to London by 2022”.

Addressing the Aviation Club in London on Tuesday, Joyce declared: “The last frontier in aviation is to get from East Coast Australia to London. By 2022 I believe we can push through that.”

Qantas’ inaugural direct London-Perth service took off on Sunday after a 17-hour 20-minute flight into Heathrow.

Joyce said: “We got $68-million worth of free publicity just from the announcement [of the route]. Imagine what publicity we’re getting from the launch.”

He dismissed a suggestion that the publicity might not be enough to sustain the flights, saying: “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t believe it [would be successful].

“We used to fly across the Pacific with two stops. When we started flying direct there were doubters. Now no one would dream of stopping off across the Pacific. People generally seek a direct service.”

He added: “We have two aircraft invested in this. No one is going to do that for publicity.”

The Qantas boss acknowledged rival carriers “are going to price aggressively to get people to make a stop” between Australia and London, but he said: “If we fill our premium seats, the yield will be super.”

Qantas has configured its two Boeing 787s on the London-Perth route with 242 seats, with 48 in business class and 28 in premium economy. But Joyce said the carrier is considering: “Is there a new class needed on the aircraft? Could we use an exercise area? Nothing is off the table.”

He said: “90% of our premium seats are full for the next month and economy is 100% full for the next few weeks.”

Joyce revealed Qantas used “10 years’ weather data to calculate the optimal flight path” for the London-Perth service.

He said: “Our pilots visited every air traffic control centre between Perth and the UK. We redesigned the crockery and cutlery to be lightweight to give us that extra reach, and the same for every component.

“We contacted the University of Sydney to find out how to make super long-haul flights more refreshing. They looked at the lighting, at coordinating the temperature and lighting. Boeing had sleep scientists working with them. We had specialists working with the chefs to determine the right time to serve meals.”

But he added: “Without the Boeing 787 having the advantages it does I don’t think we would be offering the experience we do.”

Now, Joyce said: “We have all the computing power to tweak the technology to get in range [for London-Sydney].”