Qantas chooses A350 for Project Sunrise flights from 2023

Qantas chooses A350 for Project Sunrise flights

Source: OAG Mapper. We reveal the top unserved ultra long haul routes from Australia. Qantas is set to use the A350-1000 for Project Sunrise, pending union and regulatory approval. The existing Perth service could sustain a larger aircraft (than the current 787-9) or a second daily flight according to our analysis.

Qantas this week announced their aircraft choice for the eagerly anticipated Project Sunrise.  This is for the launch of their non-stop flights Sydney to London Heathrow and New York JFK in 2023. The airline expressed its wish to order Airbus’ A350-1000, with a new build standard featuring fuel tank modifications and a slight increase in MTOW to increase payload over that distance. 

The oneworld carrier had already rejected a ‘best offer’ from Boeing (likely the 777-8X) and Airbus (A350-1000) just a few months ago, so it appears Airbus improved its terms to secure Qantas’ backing. However, the carrier has not yet ordered the aircraft, with a production slot deadline in March 2020 while it attempts in the meantime to gain crew union backing, and final board/regulatory approval. 

A350-1000 flexibility and high payload/range loved by current operators

A look at how the A350-1000 is currently deployed in W19 gives some indication as to the flexibility of the type. 

Qantas chooses A350 for Project Sunrise flights

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

It is used extensively in three main markets. These include regional Middle East/Asian trunk routes.  These are where strong passenger and cargo demand necessitates the payload of the A350. This can be seen with Qatar and Cathay’s use of the type, replacing older 777-300 (non-ER) types.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, deploy the type on premium-heavy ‘A-type market’ long-haul routes under eight hours, including Tel Aviv, New York JFK and Toronto with a large business cabin.

Finally, we have the ultra-hong haul market, where the type’s range/payload capability allows for trunk routes which previously required a stop to operate direct. 

Qantas opportunities? Top unserved ultra long haul routes from Oz

The scale of the Australia to Europe market, which has surged in recent decades through the success of Emirates and Qatar’s hubs, is remarkable. 

Qantas chooses A350 for Project Sunrise flights

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser.

In total, four million passengers travelled between Australia and Western Europe in the past year, with 59,000 on the sole non-stop service: London Heathrow to Perth. This won’s Platinum Planet award for route development at the launch in March 2018. It will be intriguing to see which of these large European and Middle Eastern markets will gain a non-stop flight, and what price premium consumers will pay to a one-stop.


  1. David says:

    What about flight to east coast of america… routes like boston, toronto and orlando airports are a big possibilities.

    can there be any statistics on this part of the world (apart from europe)

    Also qantas mentioned the possibility of capetown….

  2. James Pearson says:

    Hi David. My colleague, James Davis, who wrote the article, is away this week, so I’m replying instead. Ultra-long-haul routes rely disproportionately on high yields. As such, there are very few viable options. The bottom table in the article was based solely on traffic volume. Very few will happen, including the likes of Beirut and Rome: they’re too focused on VFR with the resulting impact on yields. They are high-trafficked routes unserved by non-stops, and they stand out for that reason. But they don’t “need” a non-stop given the plethora of one-stops and they aren’t sufficiently high yielding to warrant one. Your suggestions didn’t have enough volumes of pax to make that table. And in my view they don’t command sufficiently strong premiums – from insufficient numbers of premium pax – to warrant non-stops.

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