Direct, non-stop flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to New York, London or the rest of Europe by 2020?
That's what Boeing is studying for the next evolution of its popular 777 aircraft -- used by Virgin Australia, Emirates, Delta, Air New Zealand and many others -- and it's less of a pipe dream than you might think.
Airbus already has its eyes on an extended range A380, while Boeing's proposed update to the 777 would embrace new technologies developed since the plane was first built in the mid-1990s.
Now on the drawing board and slated for service by the end of this decade, the Boeing 777-8LX concept (yes, we wish the name rolled more easily off the tongue too) would have a top range of 17,500km according to aviation industry insider Jon Ostrower, writing in Flightglobal.
That'd be sufficent for a non-stop Sydney-London flight with a good 500km still in the tanks.
This marathon would carve a few hours off the Kangaroo Route, bringing the time down to around 19 hours compared to the current fastest run of 22 hours (which includes an hour's stopover).
The question is, how many travellers would prefer to save those three hours rather than taking a break and a stretch in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or another hub?
Direct flights from Australia to New York would also be possible, as the distances are slightly shorter (although the Pacific Ocean provides fewer potential spots to stop for extra fuel):
The longest operating flight in the world is currently Singapore Airlines' all-business class journey from Singapore to Newark, outside New York, at 15,345km and 18.5 hours.
Modern aircraft can already theoretically fly the distance between London and Sydney (the furthest of Australia's east coast cities from London).
Boeing's existing 777-200LR (for Long Range) variant has a maximum range of 17,395km, which is just under a hundred km shorter than the proposed upgrades, and which leaves a 300-400km range cushion for London flights from Australia's east coast cities.
However, that relatively small range cushion is a problem because of headwinds when flying westbound, which can lead to diversions.
It's a pain for passengers and for airlines if a plane has to divert because it's running low on fuel, as Qantas passengers discovered when the Red Roo had to iron out the fuel and headwind kinks of its Dallas-Fort Worth route last year.
And alternate airports aren't always equipped for the size of plane diverting to them, as passengers diverted to Mount Isa in Queensland found when they had to be lifted down from a Boeing 767 by forklift since the steps (sized for small planes, not big ones) weren't tall enough to reach the door.
So the extra range is a useful buffer, but it's not the be-all and end-all of the economics behind direct flights.
... but economically feasible?
Such super-long flights are "the holy grail we’re always chasing", Airbus' executive vice president Tom Williams told Australian Business Traveller in a recent interview, but cautioned that "it all comes down to economics."
Airlines are reluctant to burn fuel just to carry fuel for the longest journeys, unless they can charge a premium for the convenience.
But if the new Boeing 777-8LX can be made lighter and more efficient (Flightglobal quotes a 14-16 percent fuel burn saving per seat over existing planes) the economics might well change.
And the crew problem is there too: pilots and cabin crew couldn't be on duty for the whole 19-hour flight to London, so you'd need a second crew as relief. But with enough space for crew rest (in the amazing secret "loft" bunks above your head on new planes) it's not an insurmountable problem.
Your say: stop-over or straight through?
Could such direct flights happen? We certainly hope so. A saving of three hours to London or New York is still a saving, and it's business people who place the highest value on time saved.
The possibility of all-business class flights to London or New York would also help airlines balance the economic equation and make the nearly 20 hour trip less daunting for passengers.
Would you rather fly non-stop to London and New York, or are you fine with a stretch in Singapore or Los Angeles? What would make or break no-hop flights on the Kangaroo route for you? Share your thoughts in a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.