SYDNEY • Australia's national carrier Qantas Airways will launch the first regular passenger flight directly linking Australia and Europe when it begins flights from Perth to London with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, the airline said yesterday.
"When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops," Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said at a news conference in Perth. "Now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop."
Flights on the 14,498km route will begin in March 2018.
"This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft," Mr Joyce said. "Australians have never had a direct link to Europe before, so the opportunities this opens up are huge."
Australia is experiencing a tourism boom, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on its website yesterday, driven largely by visitors from China, but non-stop service to Europe could increase growth.
Qantas flights to London from Melbourne and Sydney have a stopover in Dubai. A senior Qantas spokesman told WSJ that there were no immediate plans to change these services.
14,498 Number of kilometres in Qantas' flight route from Perth to London
"Dubai will remain an important hub for onward services into Europe on our partner, Emirates," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
Australian federal Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said Qantas would use Perth as a hub for passengers from eastern Australia going to Britain, and the service would boost employment and tourism.
Britain is Australia's third-largest source of international visitors with more than 660,000 people arriving from there last year, and spending US$3.7 billion (S$5.3 billion), Mr Ciobo said in a statement.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners used on the route will carry 236 passengers, Qantas said.
In Singapore, analysts reckon the new flight will have minimal impact on Changi Airport, which serves as a global hub where passengers transit to various destinations.
Centre for Aviation chief analyst Brendan Sobie said: "The impact will be small. We are talking about one flight, and a large market of passengers that go between Australia and Europe."
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has committed A$14 million (S$14.9 million) to upgrade airport infrastructure, The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday.
Mr Barnett said the deal between Perth airport and Qantas is "game-changing", and could add between A$9 million and A$36 million to the state's economy each year, the report said.
Qantas' Mr Joyce was quoted by news.com.au website as saying he expected the Perth-London flight to open up the potential for other direct-to-Europe ones from Australia.
Said Mr Barnett: "With Perth's large UK expat population, direct flights are anticipated to drive increased visitation from... friends and relatives."