Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has insisted that the ultra-long range jets capable of flying non-stop to London and New York must be able to carry "a full load of passengers" – but just how many passengers is that?
One of the contenders is the Airbus A350-900ULR, which Singapore Airlines will debut towards the end of this year to restart direct flights from Singapore to New York and Los Angeles.
The A350-900ULR is tipped to sport just 162 seats from tip to tail – divided into 68 lie-flat business class beds and 94 premium economy pews – which is almost 90 seats less than SQ's standard Airbus A350 complement of 253 seats.
Boeing lists the capacity of its Boeing 777-8, which is also in the mix, as between 350 and 375 passengers to achieve its 16,100km range, with that headcount likely to be trimmed given that Sydney to London is a 17,000km stretch.
"We know the airplane can make the range today," Jim Freitas, Managing Director for Boeing product marketing and analysis, previously told Australian Business Traveller in Seattle.
"It just depends on how many passengers you want to carry, the weight per passenger including their bags, and how much cargo you want.”
By comparison, the Qantas Boeing 787-9 has 236 seats (42 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 166 in economy), having one of the lowest passenger counts for the Dreamliner in order to help make that non-stop 17 hour journey between Perth and London.
But Australian Business Traveller understands that Qantas will look for between 280 and 300 seats on the Airbus A35-900ULR or the Boeing 777-8, ideally in a four class configuration which would include a new first class design.
Given that the winning jet won't take wing in Qantas stripe until 2022, there's a good few years before Qantas needs to sign on the dotted line with either Airbus or Boeing.
And that in turn means there are still plenty of numbers to be crunched to work out the optimal configuration on these long-legged routes, so nothing can be considered as locked in.