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Qantas plans to test non-stop flights from London and New York to Sydney this year to see whether passengers and crew can tolerate 19 hours in a plane.
The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on three flights in October, November and December, with a decision on whether to introduce the ultra-long routes commercially due by the end of the year.
The test passengers will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists, with no seats sold on the flights. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment impact their health.
Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022.
Last year the airline launched direct flights between London and Perth, on the west coast of Australia, a 17-hour journey. However, the three most populous cities in Australia are all on the country’s east coast, and Melbourne is more than 10,300 miles from New York. London to Sydney is 10,500 miles.
The test flights will use new Boeing 787-9 planes, with fewer passengers and less luggage than usual to extend the range. However, successful test flights would fire the starting gun on a race between the US firm Boeing and its European rival, Airbus, to sell Qantas their new ultra-long-range aircraft, the 777X and the A350 respectively.
The A350 is currently in service on the world’s longest passenger flight: Singapore Airlines’s New York to Singapore slog, which covers 9,500 miles, taking 18 hours and 45 minutes.
The proposed new routes reflect a trend in the airline industry that has defied the highly damaging carbon emissions toll with an increase in direct, long-distance flights, which are generally preferred by passengers.
However, Alan Joyce, Qantas’s chief executive, said that flying a commercial airliner non-stop from New York to Sydney was “truly the final frontier in aviation”, reflecting the immense distances involved.
No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York to Australia, according to Qantas. It said it flew non-stop from London to Sydney in 1989 to mark the entry into service of the Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, but with only 23 people on board in order to preserve fuel.
Joyce said the start of the commercial flights was not a “foregone conclusion”, with questions remaining about the working patterns and health of crew, as well as whether the routes would be profitable.
*Courtesy: The GuardianGoogle+