Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the new ultra-long-range aircraft he expects to be flying from Australia's big east-coast cities to London by 2022 will "take passenger experience to the next level".

The Australian flag carrier last year tasked Airbus and Boeing with offering a version of the Airbus A350 or Boeing 777X capable of making the 20h flight, and plans to make a decision in 2019. Joyce describes the effort – dubbed Project Sunrise – as "breaking the tyranny of distance" and "the last frontier".

Speaking at the Aviation Club in London on 27 March – shortly after arriving on Qantas's inaugural flight from Perth to London Heathrow, the first direct service from Australia to Europe – Joyce described some of the initiatives the airline is considering for the east-coast route.

"We are looking at whether we need our usual four classes, or do we need a new class? Do we include an exercise area?" he says. "We are seeking ideas that change air travel for the future, and nothing is off the table."

While these may bring to mind the concepts proposed by some early customers of the Airbus A380 – such as onboard casinos and shopping areas – Joyce insists that such a long-duration flight will require thinking about passenger comfort in a different way.

He says the airframers will have to offer a product capable of carrying a full complement of passengers almost 9,200nm (17,020km), but "not so specialised that it can't be used anywhere else". Boeing's efforts are believed to focus on the smaller 777-8 variant of the new-generation 777, while Airbus is considering whether to push the A350-900 or revive the furloughed, shorter A350-800 to achieve the required range.

Joyce is confident Qantas will launch the services within four years. "We believe we will have pushed through the last frontier by 2022," he says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard