But that's just one of the steps to making the 19-hour flight a reality.
Qantas plane
Credit: Getty Images

Qantas has made a decision about how it could operate the world’s longest flight — but there’s still quite a way to go before they actually take off.

The Australian airline announced on Friday that if it continues “Project Sunrise,” its ultra-long-haul flights from Sydney to London or New York, they will be aboard an Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

"This aircraft uses the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years," the airline explained in a press release. "Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for Sunrise routes."

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Qantas has ordered the aircraft and will move ahead with the project. Before the route becomes reality, it must be approved by the Qantas board at a vote, scheduled to take place in March 2020. At that time, the company will officially decide whether or not to commit to the flights.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the economics and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said. “We’re offering promotions and an increase in pay but we’re asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs.”

The last of the three “Project Sunrise” research flights will take place on December 17 from New York to Sydney.

Information from all three test flights will then be passed to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority who will then have to approve an extension to today’s operating limits for ultra-long-haul flights. The authority will specifically be looking at crew fatigue and safety for the 20-hour flights. Qantas in negotiations with its pilots’ union about these matters.

Qantas sets record with nearly 20-hour commercial flight from New York to Sydney
Credit: James D Morgan/Qantas

And the airline is still looking at ways to improve its customer cabin experience for a 20-hour flight, including ways to acclimate passengers to their new time zone while they’re still on board. Research flights have indicated that a dedicated stretching and movement zone will be integral to the ultra-long-haul cabin experience.

If everything is approved, the flights are still on track to begin regular service in the early half of 2023.