Qantas Still Expects to Fly Its Ultra-long Routes From New York and London to Australia — Just a Little Later Than Planned

The airline's hope for the future comes as Australia has reopened its borders for fully vaccinated Australian citizens.

The coronavirus pandemic may have created uncertainty for the travel industry and put a lot of plans on hold, but Australian carrier Qantas said it hasn't given up on its "Project Sunrise," an ultra-long nonstop flight from London and New York.

"We still have Project Sunrise in the pipeline, which is our ability to fly from Sydney and Melbourne to the last horizon, the last tyranny of distance, direct into London, direct into the east coast of the United States," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told CNN. "That will be a unique value proposition that no other airline in the world will be offering."

The airline's hope for the future comes as Australia has reopened its borders for fully vaccinated Australian citizens, but with no plans for a broad international reopening until next year. For its part, Qantas has resumed flights between Australia and the United States and United Kingdom and Joyce told CNN the carrier is focused on replacing its domestic fleet as well.

A Qantas passenger plane takes off at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, Australia.
James D. Morgan/Getty Images

"Once we finish that, which we'll do early in 2022, we'll revisit Sunrise and the likelihood is somewhere like 2024 or 2025 for the first aircraft arriving, given the delay," Joyce said.

Qantas started testing the ultra-long routes in 2019 with 20-hour flights from Sydney to London and New York to see how the human body could handle spending an entire day in the air.

At the time, Joyce said the nonstop flights were "truly the final frontier in aviation."

When they do finally take off, they will be aboard Airbus A350-1000 aircraft equipped with an additional fuel tank. Joyce told CNN the airline still plans to order these modified Airbus planes for the routes.

Qantas isn't the only carrier to fly these ultra-long routes. In 2018, Singapore Airlines (voted the best international carrier in the world by Travel + Leisure readers) launched a nearly 19-hour flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Singapore, then dubbed the world's longest flight.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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