Qantas to test 20-hour non-stop flights to see if passengers can bear it

Qantas said on Thursday (Aug 22) that it will simulate the world's longest direct flights from New York and London to Sydney with Boeing Dreamliners as soon as October.
Qantas said on Thursday (Aug 22) that it will simulate the world's longest direct flights from New York and London to Sydney with Boeing Dreamliners as soon as October.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Qantas Airways will run marathon ghost flights from New York and London to Sydney carrying just a few members of staff to see how the human body holds up before commercial services start.

Qantas said on Thursday (Aug 22) it will simulate the world's longest direct flights with Boeing Dreamliners as soon as October. The payload of 40 passengers and crew, most of them employees, will undergo a host of medical checks and assessments.

The Australian airline wants to start direct flights connecting Sydney to New York and London as soon as 2022. Chief executive officer Alan Joyce describes the services as aviation's final frontier.

The services, which take about 20 hours, aren't yet a sure thing. Qantas still has not decided on a Boeing or Airbus plane that can fly the route fully laden and without a break. And it is not clear how passengers will tolerate living in the cabin for the better part of a day and night.

"The things we learn on these flights will be invaluable," Mr Joyce said on a call on Thursday.

Singapore Airlines currently operates the world's longest non-stop commercial flight, between Singapore and New York, which takes nearly 18 hours. It uses the Airbus A350-900ULR plane for the service.

Mr Joyce previously said he plans to choose either Boeing's 777-8X or Airbus' ultra-long-range A350-900ULR and -1000ULR for the flights. Competition for the contract gives Qantas more leverage over price.

 
 

In an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday, Mr Joyce said the delay to Boeing's 777X programme hasn't excluded the US manufacturer from the deal. He said Boeing had offered Qantas a "transitional" solution to accommodate for any delay. He didn't elaborate.

"This is still a very competitive race," he said.