Airbus, Boeing bullish on new globe-spanning jets for Qantas

Airbus, Boeing bullish on new globe-spanning jets for Qantas

Airbus and Boeing have thrown their hats into the ring to produce ultra-long range jets capable of non-stop flights from Australia's largest cities to New York and London.

Under Qantas' ambitious 'Project Sunrise' program, the highly-competitive Kangaroo Route from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London would forego stopovers such as Dubai and Singapore for a direct flight of upwards of 20 hours from 2022.

Non-stop flights to New York would be slightly shorter, at around 18 hours, while direct flights to Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are also mooted.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce formally wrote to the CEOs of Airbus and Boeing on August 23, prior to the public announcement of the project, offering that "over the next 12 months we would like to work independently with both companies on performance and design parameters that would deliver an aircraft with the right range and the right economics for Qantas to make this vision a reality."

"This would ultimately lead to a competitive tender process ahead of a potential order for the successful aircraft type."

Joyce now says that "both Airbus and Boeing have responded to the challenge," telling Sky News that both companies "have said they believe they can create an aircraft by 2022 that will get that range."

Boeing is slightly more circumspect, with a spokesperson telling Australian Business Traveller "while we don’t share details of our discussions with customers, we are confident the 777X will advance the world’s most efficient twin-aisle family by providing the best payload, operating economics and range combination in the market."

An Airbus spokesperson says the company will "have the A350-900ULR in service next year for ultra-long range flights of up to 20 hours and we look forward to working with Qantas to see how we can meet its requirements for Sydney-London non-stop.”

However, Qantas has set the bar high for both companies, specifying that the long-legged jets cannot be fitted with additional fuel tanks and must be capable of carrying "a full commercial payload" of passengers, with 300 seats said to be the target.

Qantas' Boeing 787-9, which will begin non-stop flights from Perth to London in March 2018, has been configured with 236 seats – a relatively low number for the long-range Dreamliner.

This will put the onus on Airbus and Boeing to dig deep to uncover design and engine efficiencies beyond those already planned for the Airbus A350-900ULR and Boeing 777X jets.

Earlier this year Airbus revised the range of its A350-900ULR to 9,700 nautical miles (17,960km), up from an initial 8,700 nautical miles (16,110km) as specified for launch customer Singapore Airlines, which will begin flying the A350ULR in 2018 on non-stop services to Los Angeles and New York.

It's been speculated that Qantas could opt for a 10,000 nautical mile polar route between Sydney and London, to take advantage of strong tailwinds, rather than the conventional 9,200 nautical mile route across Asia and Europe.

Qantas is already crunching the numbers on up to a decade of real-world weather patterns on these routes to identify optimal fuel-saving flight paths for a world in which a transit stopovers would no longer be necessary.

It's estimated that the benefits of non-stop flights from Australia's largest markets to the likes of London and New York could allow Qantas to levy a 20% price premium compared to longer flights with stopovers.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

33 comments

  • mviy

    mviy

    5 Sep, 2017 07:08 am

    This will be interesting. I'd be pleasantly surprised if QANTAS can start flying these routes by 2022.
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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    5 Sep, 2017 07:13 am

    Could we be seeing an A350-1000ULR?
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    5 Sep, 2017 08:37 am

    Maybe but I'm thinking the additional weight would require additional fuel and probably provide no more range than the A359ULR
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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    5 Sep, 2017 08:58 am

    Yeah I see what you mean, but one of the requirements was to be a 300 seater aircraft. 
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    5 Sep, 2017 09:01 am

    but also no additional fuel tanks...i just don't see how they can get that in the air by 2022.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    5 Sep, 2017 09:01 am

    LOOK! it's a bird, it's a plane...no wait it's a pie in the sky
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 06:30 pm

    elchriss0:
    "no additional fuel tanks...i just don't see how they can get that in the air by 2022."
    I was expecting additional fuel tankage in the belly along with a slight bump in MTOW limits to carry those extra fuel weight beyond what's planned for 359ULR /778 today will be the answers by Airbus/Boeing to QF's question.  These are typically the cheapest+quickest answers to squeeze a bit more range out of any relatively new(i.e. hv more <squeezing> potentials) but existing design throughout civil aerospace history.

    Not any more.

    Apparently, QF wants a more thorough+expensive answer fm Airbus or Boeing.  Realistically, there's now only 4 yrs to develop+build+test+certify such an airplane fm actual commitment(i.e. QF signed an order/paid deposit and Airbus/Boeing start to spend $ on related R&D) to before QF's 2022 delivery deadline.

    To put the scale of such challenge into perspective, Airbus is now spending 4yrs just to combine an existing/in-service widebody airframe design(i.e. 330) with a largely  existing/in-service engine design(i.e. Trent7000 which is adapted fm the Trent1000 on 787) to create the 330Neo which aims to break no barrier in terms of performance or op economics.  Whatever QF wants now will break into new performance & op economics frontiers.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 05:43 pm

    @Chris2304:
    "..but one of the requirements was to be a 300 seater.."
    In which there's no shortage of total usable cabin floor area for any 359 fuselage to carry.  In fact, the 359 in both DL and LH fleets today already carry beyond 300seats in 3-class including J, Y and a REAL PY section(i.e. not Y+).  In contrast, the 35K cabin is designed for 350seats &  beyond which is well above QF's requirement.

    The real problem of the 359ULR for QF is not a lack of room for 300seats inside the cabin.  Its inability to lift the required total payload fm 300pax+bags on 19-20hrs sectors is the real problem.  The longer 35K fuselage only provides more cabin space but it definitely does not help to provide more payload lifting ability....in fact, a longer/heavier fuselage makes it more difficult to achieve such goal.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 05:21 pm

    @elchriss0:
    "the additional weight would require additional fuel.."
    The 35K as it is today is already upto 20t heavier in OEW(Operating Empty Weight) than the 359/359ULR.

    Dead weight for that additional 7m fuselage length, the heavier/larger main landing gear sets(6 vs 4wheels per bogie) and the 0.5t heavier Trent XWBs on the 35K over the 359/359ULR all add up before anyone starts to load fuel on a 35K upto its certified total weight limits(e.g. MTOW).

    "..probably provide no more range than the A359ULR"
    Absolutely and it's just simple physics+mathematics.  Even if Airbus is willing to commit huge sum+time(note: delivery will definitely be beyond 2022) to develop a 35KULR but somehow not apply the same tech on a 359ULR+, such a 35K will @ best only match the max range of today's 359ULR.

    Fm a product planning perspective, the 359ULR which has not even flown yet will immediately become a dead duck in the mkt as soon as Airbus announce to develop a 35KULR with even more range than the 359ULR....why buy a variant with significantly fewer seats AND lesser range?
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    7 Sep, 2017 10:47 am

    @FLX1 - I really like how you've gone deep with your responses...pretty much provided the evidence for my points where I was too lazy to do so.  I used to know all the specs but haven't kept on top of things in the last year or 2 and so have forgotten the details.

     
    Also I think you mean A35J for A350-1000.  A35K is what you would call the potential even further extended A350-1100 competitor to the 779X.
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  • 7OD

    7OD

    5 Sep, 2017 01:45 pm

    IIRC, the A350-900ULR is effectively a shortened A350-1000 with extra fuel tanks, so an A350-1000ULR is probably unlikely. Someone more knowledgeable may be able to correct me though! 
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    5 Sep, 2017 02:35 pm

    Not so. The A350-900ULR is a 'standard' A350-900 with more efficient capacity of the fuel tanks, no extra tanks fitted, which is why Airbus is actually promoting potential after-sales conversion of 'standard' A350-900s to ULR models to airlines buying the A350-900. The A350-1000 is a stretch of the A350-900 with higher passenger capacity but shorter range.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 06:56 pm

    @Bob Burgess:
    "A350-900ULR is a 'standard' A350-900 with more efficient capacity of the fuel tanks, no extra tanks fitted..."
    Correct.  In more precise terms, the physical total tank volume of 359 and 359ULR are identical but they are set @ diff max volume limits regulated by sensors+softwares.  A relatively simple tweaking of sensors+softwares largely contribute to how Airbus transform a 359 into a 359ULR...of course, there're also some minor structural changes to bring the available MTOW option fm 275t today to 280t(standard for the ULR) fm nex yr onward.  All these need significant time+$ to test+certify though so it's not just pushing a few buttons on the keyboard to initiate software commands.

    "...Airbus is actually promoting potential after-sales conversion of 'standard' A350-900s to ULR"
    Partially yes because it cannot retro-fit to older 359s  already built/delivered @ or below the 275t MTOW standard.  Convertibility to ULR config is only available to frames ordered/built to the 280t MTOW std and the 1st production frame to be built in that standard is the 1st 359ULR for SQ nex yr.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    5 Sep, 2017 08:36 am

    this seems like a case of beggars can't be choosers...no additional fuel tanks seems unrealistic considering that they need 10,000 plus contingency range in case of problems
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  • mviy

    mviy

    5 Sep, 2017 09:54 am

    They could well have to have extra fuel tanks and then maybe five/ten years later move to a further improved model that may not need them and rip out the extra tanks and put the planes obtained in 5 years time on shorter routes.
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    5 Sep, 2017 10:56 am

    With recent advances in aircraft technology that has seen the development of the B787 and A350, there is no reason for ultra long haul flights using the B777x, A350-900ulr and the B787 extended range.

    Air NZ is now looking at the A350-900ulr and the B777 as possible replace to the B772 fleet.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 07:12 pm

    @krisdude:
    1. No 787 variant currently has the seat count nor payload/range anywhere near what's currently planned for the 778(i.e. the long-legged 77X variant)....let alone an even more capable 778 desired by QF.
    2. The 'A350-900ulr' IS a development result of the 'A350'.  The former would not exist without the latter.
    3. No such thing as a "B787 extended range" exists nor planned by Boeing.
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  • TheBigM

    TheBigM

    5 Sep, 2017 10:59 am

    Are there economy passengers that would want to pay 20% more for no-stops and 18-20 hours in one seat? In a presumably tight plane to achieve the seating number? And 300 premium seats wouldn't add up.


    Doesn't seem realistic.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    6 Sep, 2017 07:49 pm

    @TheBigM:
    "Are there economy passengers that would want to pay 20% more for no-stops...?"
    U are likely asking the wrong question akin to <Are there Y pax that would want to pay 20,000% more for chartering a corp/private jet?>

    1st of all, pax flying J or even PY and willing to pay 20% premium for nonstop is really all that matters.  Y sales on such flights are nice to hv or just a dessert for the airlines....PY sales is the appetizer and J sales is the main course for airlines to sustain ULR ops.

    2ndly, U forgot that even in Y(let alone J or PY), some pax there do not choose to be there and to pay whatever premium or not for nonstop.  Their employers do.....

    Finally, it's unrealistic to assume that vacant seats on the quickest 1-stop option is always available yr-round as an alternative to a 2-3hrs faster nonstop.  In reality, Y pax may be left with 1-stop options that are 4-6hrs slower due to less ideal connection timings.  For a round-trip, that's 0.5day longer total journey time away fm home/family for a road warrior in Y on biz trip...some may be willing to ask employer to pay 20% premium for nonstop?
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  • downdata

    downdata

    5 Sep, 2017 11:11 am

    I'd like a hefty discount if flying firect in economy...
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  • Matthew Liu

    gapmatt

    5 Sep, 2017 01:13 pm

    Yes agree.
    I think most economy passengers would want a stop-over.
    18-20hrs in one seat is far too long - I for one would certainly
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  • kabe100

    kabe100

    5 Sep, 2017 02:39 pm

    New York bound economy passengers can choose any US airport or AKL as the stopover. AirNZ is going to fly NY around the same time using either B777-8 (with 325+ pax) or A350ULR.  
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  • guy

    guy

    5 Sep, 2017 11:17 am

    In business - sure. Economy no way
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  • Shang YEH

    a19901213

    5 Sep, 2017 11:57 am

    I just don't see how it can be done without adding additional fuel tank, let alone carrying a full payload.
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  • Adam T

    AT

    5 Sep, 2017 03:17 pm

    Well you need a mighty good entertainment system or free reliable WIFI for movie/TV downloads to keep everyone entertained for the trip. QF could start today by replacing their current manager who is responsible for their very average in-flight entertainment and bring in the person who looks after SQ Krisworld.
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  • Econochaser

    Econochaser

    5 Sep, 2017 03:46 pm

    I and many others cattle class flyers don't see the point in be charged $2000 for per-lhr and be seated for 18hrs when you can pay $1200 with a leg stretch  stopover in sin, dxb, doh, auh, etc. and arrive only 4 or 5 hrs later. Different story for business class that is where airlines make more money.
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  • Austin Taylor

    Austin

    6 Sep, 2017 12:08 am

    Mate, you miss the point I think.
    It's like being a Bank customer and getting screwed on your credit card or mortgage. You get no say in it...
    QF overflying Asian Hubs is well overdue. And will and should happen. Bring it on, I say.
    Austin
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  • Michael Gibbons

    rowwdy

    5 Sep, 2017 06:02 pm

    Failing Airbus and Boeing providing a solution, I wonder whether Auckland would be considered by QF as a New York departure point. 
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  • eminere

    eminere

    5 Sep, 2017 07:08 pm

    I doubt the NZ government would ever allow that. Air NZ would raise hell.
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    6 Sep, 2017 09:48 am

    NZ Government will allow it under the 'open skies' agreement but Air NZ will not be happy.

    NYC is on Air NZ list of feature destinations.
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  • Jason Bird

    Speedbird

    5 Sep, 2017 06:06 pm

    I don't even think I want to do this in Buz class, never mind economy. 

    13-14 hours MAX in one flight for me thanks. 
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  • AlexTravAddict

    AlexTravAddict

    5 Sep, 2017 07:01 pm

    Direct flights to Rio de Janeiro have been mooted? That is laughable. There is no way direct flights to Brazil would be economically viable under the current cumbersome visa requirements for Australians which involve sending your passport to Canberra, allowing three weeks for processing, and forking out about $250. Not to mention the fact that Rio's international airport is an absolute shocker (one of the worst major city airports in the world). The airport also has poor transport options to touristy neighbourhoods such as Copacabana and Ipanema with non-existent and confusing public transport. Not to mention fairly average connections to other Brazilian cities. Then there is the problem of Rio itself: its dangerous, locals can be rude and arrogant, infrastructure is poor, basic tourist information is difficult to find, hotels are well below the standards of Europe and Asia, shops and services are often poor quality and expensive, English is not widely spoken expect in the most touristy areas, corruption is rife, bureaucracy is everywhere, and the city is in a state of political and financial crisis which is reflected in local's morale (when I was there in April there were riots where buses were set alight and we were told not to leave our hotel), and public cultural institutions are under serious pressure to even stay open (you only need to read about the plight of Maracana stadium to see what a basket case the city is). If direct flights to Brazil do commence I think it is much more likely to be to Sao Paulo which has a great airport and better connections. Although SP is not a destination in itself which defeats the purpose of such a long flight. I would still prefer connecting in Santiago which is one of the easiest airports in the world to transfer through.

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  • Kin Ho

    KinHo

    6 Sep, 2017 06:19 pm

    Seems like a lot of figure crunching on both the technology of the aircraft and profitability, and all about the total hours of flight. And there were a few mention of EY pax preferring a stopover. 
    I'd ask the question from a health risk angle. None of us knows if we are susceptible to DVT. Sitting too long in a cramped position will increase the risk. So EY pax will definitely be worried. And again (from my other feedback in another discussion) total EY passengers airfare is some 50% more of the J class total airfare, so I'm sure the airline puts a fair bit of importance to the EY needs, I do hope. 
    Personally, I would like to see airlines making consideration with new ideas, by having a balance between total flight hours for profit sake, and keeping health risk low. 
    Oh, and aircraft manufacturer to assist in this too, with good designs for this matter. 
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