Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said that Project Sunrise direct flights from Australia’s east coast are likely to begin with New York and not London.
In comments reported by Bloomberg, Joyce revealed the British capital would follow next, despite its current flights there being its most iconic ‘Kangaroo’ service, and one of the first routes restarted post-COVID.
Project Sunrise is the codename for the airline’s plan to fly non-stop to far-away destinations using a new fleet of 12 specially adapted A350-1000s.
The service is set to begin “by the end of the calendar year 2025” from Sydney.
Speaking at the World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam, Joyce also said there had been no indication the aircraft’s deliveries could be delayed and was “quite happy” with his communication with Airbus.
However, he indicated he would speak to the planemaker’s chief executive, Guillaume Faury, about how “on track” the A350s are.
The already ultra-long-haul aircraft will need to be adapted to house additional fuel tanks to make the 20-hour flight.
“I think every airline would be after certainty on the time-frames,” he said, adding that if deliveries come “a month later, it doesn’t make much difference, if it’s six months or a year, that can make a big difference.”
It comes after Airbus cut its annual jet delivery forecast from 720 jets to 720 and would reach an interim production goal of 65 A320-family jets a month in early 2024 instead of summer 2023.
Alongside the A350s, Qantas has an order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s, to gradually replace its current fleet of Boeing 737 and 717 flying domestically.
The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
Deliveries of the narrowbodies are expected to begin in 2023, while the Project Sunrise aircraft will all arrive by 2028.
In June, Joyce said the details of both deals were “commercial in confidence” but that a “significant discount from standard price should be assumed”.
“New types of aircraft make new things possible. That’s what makes today’s announcement so significant for the national carrier and for a country like Australia where air travel is crucial.
“Throughout our history, the aircraft we’ve flown have defined the era we’re in. The 707 introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel and the A380 brought a new level of comfort.
“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance.”
Joyce said the Project Sunrise deal, along with its Project Winton order, made the purchase announcement the “largest aircraft order in Australian aviation”.
“Our strategy for these aircraft will see us generate significant benefits for those who make it possible – our people, our customers and our shareholders.”
The purchase of the aircraft was the last significant hurdle to overcome after the airline in March 2020 agreed to a deal with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) for its members to fly ultra-long-haul routes. However, after this point, work on Project Sunrise was put on pause due to the pandemic.
Sister brand Jetstar also has an order for a fleet of 38 A320 NEOs, the first of which touched down in July.