Australian airline Qantas is known for operating some of the world’s longest flights. After all, it takes a while to get down to Australia from practically anywhere you start. A fact that Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce calls, “the tyranny of distance.”
The new flight will not only be the airline’s longest, clocking in at 17 hours and 20 minutes, but it will also be the world’s first regularly scheduled non-stop passenger route between Europe and Australia, replacing the airline’s historical multi-stop “Kangaroo Route” between the two regions.
Qantas has been waiting for the delivery of a new aircraft capable of flying that time and distance. With the delivery of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner this week, myriad new routes are now within reach for the airline. As Joyce put it, “We’ve been waiting 97 years of our history for this aircraft.”
Qantas’s first 787-9 is the 615th Boeing Dreamliner to roll off the production line and is the first of eight that the airline will receive between now and November 2018, though it has options to purchase 45 more 787s in the future.
The airline asked the Australian public to help name it, and after sifting through 45,000 suggestions, Qantas decided to call it “Great Southern Land.”
The 787-9 is the first new type of plane to join Qantas’s fleet since the airline began flying its Airbus A380 double-decker jets in 2008, and will eventually replace some of its Boeing 747-400s. Here’s what the first one looks like.
This particular Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will actually first be put to use flying between Melbourne and Los Angeles (another long route that can take up to 15 hours and 35 minutes) starting on December 15, 2017, before an additional jet comes online to begin the Perth-London leg in March 2018. Future Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will fly from Brisbane to Los Angeles and on to New York JFK as well, so travelers to and from the U.S. will soon be flying on these new jets.
These seats are an update of the “Business Suites” the airline already fields on its A330s. They are similar to the Thompson Vantage XL seats on SAS and some new Delta jets, but they have been customized by Qantas’s designers, Marc Newson and David Caon.
Caon (above) also designed new Noritake cutlery, china and glassware, which is 11% lighter than Qantas’s previous sets, reducing the aircraft’s weight and thus making it (slightly) more fuel-efficient.
There are shared AC charging ports, but each seat has two individual USB ports, and a special shelf for a personal electronic device. Each seat also has an LED reading light and a custom-made pillow that can be attached to the seat back so it won’t fall while passengers sleep.
Chef Neil Perry (above) of Australia’s Rockpool Dining Group, is working on special menus for the Perth-London flight to ease the rigors of such a long travel experience. Service will be timed to help passengers acclimate to their destination time zone more quickly and dishes will incorporate ingredients to positively impact circadian rhythms and minimize jet lag.
Just behind business class is a small cabin with 28 of the airline’s newest premium economy seats arranged in a 2 – 3 – 2 pattern. Each was designed with five small personal storage areas for things like tablets, eyeglasses, travel documents and water bottles. Each of the premium economy seats is 20.5 inches wide and has 38 inches of pitch and nine-and-a-half inches of recline operated by a little lever on the armrest.The premium economy entertainment screens are 13.3 inches and sport a pull-out shelf where passengers can place a phone or tablet for viewing their own content.
These seats have 32 inches of pitch (one inch more than on Qantas’s A380s and 747s), are 17.2 inches wide and recline six inches. They each have 12-inch entertainment screens, USB ports and AC power plugs. New features include integrated mood lighting and new personal device holders so passengers can watch content on their own electronics.