Industry Qantas to operate new research flights

Australian flag-carrier Qantas has announced, that it plans to operate “project sunrise” research flights.

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Over the course of the programme, Qantas will perform three ultra-long-haul research flights for research purposes. The airline seeks to gather new data about inflight crew and passenger health and wellbeing. Ultimately, Qantas hopes to better the overall experience on very long flights.

Project Sunrise will be conducted over three months and flights will be performed with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Instead of flying empty during delivery flights from the U.S., Qantas will simulate two Project Sunrise routes from London and New York to Sydney. Delivery flights will be re-routed.

Qantas stated, that each flight will have a maximum of 40 people including crew. With this measure, the carrier hopes to minimise weight and give the necessary fuel range for such long distance. Furthermore, carbon emissions from the flights will be fully offset.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “Ultra-long-haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them [...] For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights.”

“No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise. We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing long-haul flights,” added Mr Joyce.

Qantas has already performed data test on passenger sleep strategies on its route between Perth and London. Some of these findings will be assessed further as part of the new dedicated research flights. The airline said that customer feedback is of special importance.

Qantas added in a statement: "Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to Qantas that are capable of operating Project Sunrise flights with a viable commercial payload. A final decision on Project Sunrise – which depends on aircraft economics, regulatory approvals and industrial agreements – is expected by the end of December 2019."

As flag-carrier of Australia, Qantas is the largest airline in the country. Qantas operates the mainline airline and subsidiary airline QantasLink and New Zealand. The mainline airline´s fleet consists of 136 aircraft, including 28 Airbus 330s, 12 A380s, 80 Boeing 737s, seven 747s, one 767 and eight 787 Dreamliner.

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