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Qantas details considerations for Project Sunrise aircraft

Qantas has detailed more of its considerations as it moves towards issuing a request for proposal on a new ultra-long-haul aircraft in 2019.

Group chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters that there is “a lot of logistics” involved in Project Sunrise, targeted at acquiring an aircraft which would allow it to launch nonstop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York around 2022.

These include working out new arrangements with pilots and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority to manage fatigue on the 21-hour flights.

Nonetheless, he reaffirmed the timeline for a potential order.

“We’re hopeful of having the technical evaluation finished this year, and do an RFP process with both manufacturers at some time in 2019 to place an order for the aircraft for delivery in 2022.”

Qantas international chief executive Alison Webster gave more insight into the airline’s thoughts on the configuration of the aircraft.

“We are looking at an aircraft configuration that gives us some flexibility and opportunity for around an over 300 passenger seat count on the aircraft for the economics to be in the right place for us,” she says.

“We’re also looking at a four-cabin configuration design, but as I said these are all still a work in progress.”

Both Airbus and Boeing have been working closely with the airline to optimise the A350 and 777-8 respectively to meet Qantas's long-range requirements.

Webster also reaffirms that London and New York are the two nonstop destinations “firmly in our sight” for the aircraft to launch from Australia's east coast. Joyce also nominates Chicago, points in Brazil and other cities in Europe as later possibilities.

Webster adds that Qantas' existing ultra-long-haul route from Perth to London has been well received, with consistently high customer scores.

The daily services are operated with Boeing 787-9s that originate in Melbourne. To date, around 40% of passengers transfer from the east coast onto the nonstop flight, she adds.

Although Qantas has previously spruiked the possibility of using the Perth hub to fly to Paris and Frankfurt, Joyce says this is on-hold until it resolves a dispute with Perth airport. The dispute revolves around the airline wanting to operate seasonal services to Johannesburg using the international facilities that its London flights use at its domestic terminal in Perth.

Joyce adds that while he plans to meet with Perth airport’s chairman soon and hopes to see the issue resolved, aircraft that would be used for longer European services have already been allocated to other routes.

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