Qantas long-haul pilots have voted in favour of a deal on pay and conditions for Project Sunrise flights.

The deal means existing Qantas long-haul pilots will fly Airbus A350s if an order is made for the ultra-long-haul project, Australia’s biggest airline says in a statement.

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.

The carrier had threatened to bypass unions in February, saying that it would negotiate directly with individual pilots or create a “new employment entity”, if it could not come to an agreement with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA).

Qantas said today that over 1,400 pilots voted on the deal, with 85% in favour.

“The vote came at a difficult time but it’s also important to keep looking ahead,” Qantas chief pilot Dick Tobiano states.

Qantas has placed tentative orders for up to a dozen A350-1000s for Project Sunrise. Airbus has also agreed to extend the deadline for a decision on the order so both parties can cope with the coronavirus crisis, Tobiano says.

“But when this period has passed, and it will, we will refocus our attention on Project Sunrise and the A350 order,” he promises.