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Qantas direct flights from London to Sydney: what we learned



Sydney (CNN) – It feels like the world just got a little smaller. A flight operated by Australian airline Qantas has just made the record-breaking flight from London to Sydney directly, spending 19 hours and 19 minutes in the air, opening up the possibility of scheduled direct flights between some of the farthest corners of the planet.

CNN was among the handful of journalists aboard this research flight, where researchers collected data on passenger and crew well-being and biometrics. Qantas hopes data collected from its "Project Sunrise" experiments will convince Australian aviation regulators to allow it to operate so-called ultra-long haul aircraft of 22 plus hours on this and other routes.

While the flight to QF7879 generated some headlines, it also provided insight into how the world of air travel and what is in store for the future.

Here are some of the things we learned:

The future is probably ultra-long

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Qantas Flight QF7879 lands at Sydney airport after 19 hours and 19 minutes in the air.

James D Morgan / Qantas

Singapore to New York, Doha to Auckland, Perth to London. The three longest flights in the world clock in more than 17 hours – and CNN's Richard Quest has been on them all.

Every time one of these ultra-long-haul aircraft was launched, the question was asked if they were worth it? Ultra-long-haul aircraft became economically viable with the arrival of new lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the A350 and 787 Dreamliner.

Before arriving on the scene, aircraft such as the A340-500 and 777LR could handle the distance, but were, by comparison, heavy and thirsty.

787 provides 20% fuel per seat saving compared to the earlier 747 years being phased out. This gives airlines much more margin to make money on long flights, where fuel is a higher percentage of costs. These profit margins will serve as a powerful incentive for carriers to focus on longer flights as a growth area.

The number of these new flights shows how popular they are. Airlines all over the world now offer routine flights of 15 hours duration, and that will continue.

And you have to pay more for it

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Business class aboard record-sized Qantas aircraft.

James D Morgan / Qantas

Should London to Sydney or London to New York routes get ready by 2022 or 2023 in line with Qantas timeline, do not expect to get any discounted tickets.

If the apparent success of the airline's direct service connecting the Western Australia city of Perth with London nonstop is anything to go by, tickets will negotiate at premium prices.

Qantas says that the London-Perth route typically sells at 20-30% higher prices than its other airfares. And even at this price point, the airline says it is currently the most popular route it runs, with 95% occupancy – much higher than the typical 75% take up. It's not just business travelers. The airline says the route is popular with families who are willing to pay extra to avoid the dispute of negotiating tense and exhausted children through a layover.

But there is probably still room for stopovers

Airlines may offer extremely long flights, but not all passengers want them. Some would prefer a stop to stretch their legs and get a little fresher air.

The reality is that there is room for both.

Sometimes we want to get there as quickly as possible and will line up with air in a can for 16 hours for speed. Other times, the idea of ​​getting off in Bangkok or Gulf may not be very attractive, especially as many of the airports there have transit hotels, gyms and swimming pools.

So far, only Qatar is running one of the longest routes with an economy section. Singapore Airlines & # 39; s business and premium economy.

If Qantas sunrise flights from "Project Sunrise" include economy, many would probably have chosen a stopover in Singapore than 19 hours without a stop in the cheaper seats.

Friendly skies are important

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Sunset over Kazakhstan.

Barry Neild / CNN

The sky above us is not an international free for anyone where airplanes can roam whenever desired. Every country is jealous of its airspace and requires all aircraft to operate in it.

When it comes to planning a long-haul route in which every kilometer added to the journey extends the operating limits of aircraft, it is crucial to be able to plot the most direct route, or one with the most favorable headwind. [19659003] As for aircraft QF7879, Qantas had to seek special permission to fly a course that the aircraft would not normally take – over Western Europe, then Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China, before entering more familiar territory over the Philippines and Indonesia.

According to the airline's officials, there was a clearance that was needed straight down the line. One of the countries only gave final permission 36 hours before departure.

When Qantas last flew a route from London to Sydney – a one-off trip in July 1989 involving a modified Boeing 747-400 that carried only 23 people, the world was a different place. The Soviet Union was still in place and China was far less open than it is now. It necessitated a different course overflying the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Oman and Sri Lanka.

Balance is also important

  qantas airplane

Flight QF7879 flew nose because of an empty economy class.

Barry Neild / CNN

Look at a modern jetliner up close, and you would be forgiven for thinking – after first wondering how extraordinary it is that such a large machine can fly in the first place – that the position To a handful of people, or even a few soda sodas, will not make much difference when it comes to balancing it in the air.

You will be wrong.

Flight QF747-9 used a brand new Boeing Dreamliner which, despite being one of the most efficient in its class, still needed to reduce weight on board in order to stretch its operating limits. This meant that the entire economy class section of more than 150 seats at the back of the cabin was left empty, resulting in a front-heavy aircraft as the few passengers on board concentrated on premium seating.

The practical effect was that all hand luggage had to be placed in the slopes behind and passengers were asked to spend as much time behind – when exercising and so on – as possible.

With the weight in front there is more drag, which reduces the fuel economy.

To further trim the aerodynamic profile of the aircraft, all chariot cars were stored at the rear during the London-Sydney flight. There were also no liquor jars or regular soft drinks. The only alcoholic beverage on board was wine and there were no traditional canned drinks.

However, there was a surprisingly abundant supply of coconut water.

Flights become incredibly efficient

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These engines could have stayed in the air for another hour and 45 minutes.

Barry Neild / CNN

The fact that Qantas is even considering offering commercial routes from London and New York to Sydney, and can take 50 passengers comfortably, is testament to the engineering efficiency of modern aircraft.

A look back at the 1989 Qantas London-Sydney plane, and the modern Boeing 747-900 that made the trip, show how far the industry has come.

Twenty years ago, the aircraft had to be stripped of all but a few simple seats to minimize weight. The fuel tanks were filled to the dump with a special aircraft fuel imported from Eastern Europe.

To preserve every last drop, it was towed to the runway before departure. Compare that to the QF7879, which did not need a full fuel tank (it carried about half that of the 1989 aircraft) and could hold its cabin furniture fully in place.

The last flight was to try out new Boeing wind warning equipment that uses almost live data to make minor route adjustments and further reduce fuel consumption.

The result was that it landed in Sydney with 6,300 kilos of fuel still on board. It is enough for another hour and 45 minutes to fly – 15 minutes more than expected to arrive.

It is impossible to ignore environmental concerns

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Rows with empty seats in the economy.

Richard Quest / CNN

Looking at a row after row of empty economy class seats aboard QF7879, the mind inevitably turned to the recent "flight shaming" phenomenon that avoids flights.

If that wasn't enough, the effects of the climate crisis that affected the planet both in the home country and the destination were felt.

In the United Kingdom, the great heavy rainfalls that forged Heathrow worsened as the flight took a severe flood in the north of the country, which experts say the county will face more of as climate change progresses.

As the aircraft approached Sydney at the end of the flight, the smoke from bush fires near the city – again linked to climate change – could be seen on the wave on the horizon.

Naturally, flights like QF7879 pump more environmental toxins into the atmosphere, and although Qantas offset the carbon emissions from the flight through what it claims is an industry-leading environmental program, there is no escaping the fact that aviation today is part of the problem in instead of the solution.

That said, flights won't disappear. It is a major economic driver worldwide, and the aviation industry is doing much more than many other sectors to reduce the damage it causes.

Whether it is motivated by public image interests, genuine environmental concerns or the increased profit margins provided by burning less aviation fuel, one might ask.

We are still heading towards a cure for jet lag

  tracey plain

Scientist Tracey Plain demonstrates a surge wave monitoring headset.

Barry Neild / CNN

The jet age has been with us for more than half a century, but we are still no closer to a cure for one of the greatest prohibitions for international travel.

Alleged jet lag remedies come in all shapes and sizes, from special headbands that bathe the user's eyes in blue light, to pharmaceutical solutions that sometimes have unpleasant side effects.

If it was a proven, tried and trusted method to quickly reset body clocks, we would all use it.

That jet lag science still had unspecified ground to cover is reflected by the presence of serious researchers aboard QF7879 from academic institutions including Melbourne's Monash University.

While Qanta's "Project Sunrise" flights have been denied by anyone as a claims-seeking gimmick, you do not – as the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce, point out – senior pilots are subject to weekly testing of urine unless there is a good reason.

While Qantas hopes data from the tests will help make the case to regulators to approve their ultra-long-haul aircraft, the researchers say their findings could help new ways to minimize jet lag's harmful effects on globetrotters.

A takeaway from the London-Sydney flight courtesy of Monash scientist Tracey Sletten: "It's all about the light. The time of day you get light exposure and the intensity of that light will help you jet lag more than anything."

But it is possible to ease the impact of aircraft on the aircraft

  qantas test flight landing-5402

Exercises on board can help minimize jet lag.

James D Morgan / Qantas [19659010] Seeing the training routines that passengers on board QF7879 were encouraged to participate in was one of the obvious entertainment highlights of the 19 hour journey. The comedic bobbing up and down the hallways, lunging and stretching was far more compelling than the last Tarantino film offered on the seatback screens.

But it helps, says Professor Corinne Caillaud of the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Center Medical Institute, who led callisthenics in the air. She says the exercises activate blood circulation, stretch muscles and reduce body stiffness. Varying bowels in the workouts over 19 hours also relieves jet lag.

Food can also help.

The meals aboard the London-Sydney flight were designed to encourage passengers to sleep at the beginning of the journey and wake them up later, to reflect the time of day at the destination. For example, karbattung supper, served just after takeoff, was to help passengers' bodies produce an amino acid called tryptophan, which in turn encourages the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep patterns.

Necessity is the mother of innovation in the airline

  alan joyce qantas

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

James D Morgan / Qantas

Qantas CEO Joyce is professionally proud to recognize that the airline is at the forefront of pushing innovation in ultra-long garden flights – not least with its "Project Sunrise" challenge for Airbus and Boeing to acquire the aircraft needed to make the journey commercially viable.

But why is the airline leading? "Simple," says Joyce. "Australia is very far away from everywhere. We have so many ultra-long hail flights. When you think of the distances we travel – already Perth to London is a 17 hour flight, Sydney to Dallas is 16, Santiago is over 14 hours, so we have services directly to London from Sydney which can be 21 hours … Paris, Frankfurt, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro … We can justify a significant fleet making it economical. "

There are disadvantages to 19 hours on a plane

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Two sunrises on a flight.

Barry Neild / CNN

Spending such a long time inside a 40,000-foot metal pipe is not a good idea for many people, but there are some ups and downs.

Obviously, for those on board QF7879, there are boasting rights to be in record-breaking services. It was also the rare spectacle of witnessing separate sunrises on a single trip – which, even if the flight goes in regular service, is unlikely to be repeated by Qantas, because the assigned schedules will hardly make it possible beyond special events.

There was also the benefit of being able to spray out on an almost empty, brand new aircraft.

Anyone who buys an economy seat at a London-Sydney service in the future may not feel the same way.

Being crammed into cheaper seats – albeit those with better than average legroom – will be a test of endurance.

That said, it was a rare chance to use some forced digital downtime to spend 20 hours cut off from Internet access. Perhaps Qantas will practically price future Wi-Fi access beyond the budget for corporate expense accounts if the flight becomes a permanent fixture.

Defining & # 39; the world's longest flight & # 39; is difficult

  qantas test flight landing-8

It's a record!

James D Morgan / Qantas

We have called QF7879 a record flight in terms of both duration and distance. Not everyone agrees – and admittedly, the differences are subtle. In this case, the flight represents the longest distance covered by a regular commercial passenger aircraft (17,800 kilometers) – and the longest time (19 hours and 19 minutes.)

Of course you can claim that it does not count because this was not a income flight – no tickets were available. It will leave the record holder as Singapore Airline's SQ32 service from Singapore to New York.

Other long-distance / duration claimants include a 22-hour flight in 2005 of a PIA Boeing 777 from Hong Kong to London, covering 21,601 kilometers. But it can no doubt be discounted because it was deliberately going wrong around the world, a route that will never be operated on a commercial basis.

What these monster planes all have in common is the demand for great endurance from the crew and endurance from passengers. And because they can ultimately be profitable, we will see more of them.


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