Qantas is putting Project Sunrise on hold, citing the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on air travel.

“We do think there is a huge potential for Project Sunrise but the time is not right now given the impact that Covid-19 has had on world travel,” chief executive Alan Joyce said at a media webinar on 5 May.

“But we do think there is still a good business case for it and a good opportunity for it.”

Responding to questions about Qantas’ order for up to 12 Airbus A350-1000s, specifically for the project, Joyce says: “We certainly won’t be ordering aircraft for that this year and we will keep a review on when is the appropriate time, when is the market recovered, when is Qantas in a position to commit to more aircraft and more capital.”

The airline declined to comment further on its plans. 

Project Sunrise is the airline’s initiative to open nonstop services to the Australian east coast from New York and London, from around 2022-23.

In February, it indicated that it was willing to negotiate directly with individual pilots or create a “new employment entity”, in order to meet Airbus’ deadline.

The following month, Qantas long-haul pilots voted in favour of a deal on pay and conditions for Project Sunrise flights. The deal meant that existing Qantas long-haul pilots will fly the A350s if an order is made for the ultra-long-haul project.