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Project Sunrise flights likely to commence in 2023: Joyce

Qantas is likely to launch its Project Sunrise flights on a commercial basis from 2023, and believes the initiative could lead to multiple ultra-long-haul routes to Australia from Europe and North America.

Chief executive Alan Joyce spoke after a Boeing 787-9 landed at Sydney on 20 October following a nonstop trial flight from New York JFK.

"The plan we're working towards is making a decision on the business case by the end of this year," he says. "And it will likely be [launched] from 2023 when the aircraft are available."

While a 787-9 was used for the research flight, Qantas intends either to use Airbus A350s or Boeing 777Xs.

Joyce says the airline wants to operate the ultra-long-haul flights daily.

"We know the demand is there, we know people are interested in it, we know people want to fly these and save the time," he says.

"So we want to make this a reality by 2023 from New York and from London – and maybe from a lot of other destinations in Europe and North America that we can't reach in one stop today."

Qantas is discussing aircraft economics with Airbus and Boeing and seeking to reach agreements with pilots.

But Joyce stresses that the airline wants to use data gathered from the Project Sunrise test flights to make regulatory authorities "comfortable".

"At the moment we have [crew] limits of around 20h – we want to get to 22h, then 24h, which will allow us to do it," he says. "So we need to show that this can be done safely."

He adds: "It's really critical, otherwise we can't do this. We would run out of hours with flights from London. So we know that's key."

Qantas also needs to ensure its onboard product is suitable, he says. The airline is looking to configure the Project Sunrise aircraft with four classes, which will include a special area for economy passengers to be able to exercise.

Its onboard research for the programme also includes studying lighting configurations and even the ingredients for catering, to optimise alertness levels during different stages of the flights.

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