Qantas Airways is to launch a new direct non-stop route from London Heathrow to Perth in Western Australia from March 2018.
This is the first scheduled non-stop direct link between Europe and Australia.
There have been non-stop flights between Europe and Australia in the past, but only as one-off charter flights with a significantly lighter weight.
At a distance of 14,498 kilometres and a fight time of approximately 17 hours, this will be one of the longest “ultra long haul” non-stop flights in the world. This is a time saving of 3-4 hours on one stop services.
Qantas has yet to announce the exact departure and arrival times of the flights and flights will not go on sale until April 2017. If Qantas is to use departure slots from its existing Heathrow portfolio a departure time of around either 12 midday or 10pm is likely.
Qantas Airways has just announced it is to open a new dedicated lounge for first and business class passengers flying on its daily services to Sydney and Melbourne from London Heathrow Terminal 3, which will open in 2017.
Currently, Qantas does not have its own lounge at London Heathrow and eligible passengers have to make use of the British Airways Galleries Club and First lounges at London Heathrow Terminal 3.
The lounge will occupy two levels of the airport terminal with capacity for 230 passengers. The new lounge is expected to be modelled on recent Qantas lounges in Hong Kong and Singapore. Construction will commence later this year.
Features of the new lounge will include:
• Australian chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool menu and dining experience;
• Full-service bar with Rockpool cocktails;
• Full bathroom facilities including showers;
• Business facilities; and
• Children’s zone.
Eligible members of Oneworld alliance frequent flyer programmes will also have access to the lounge and with Cathay Pacific also refurbishing its lounges at London Heathrow Terminal 3, Oneworld passengers will have a good choice of lounge facilities at London Heathrow.
This is also a welcome investment by Qantas in London. Qantas has previously reduced its daily services from London Heathrow from four to two daily. It also ended its partnership with British Airways in favour a partnership with Emirates with all services to Sydney and Melbourne routed via Dubai as a consequence. There have been question marks over its long term commitment to London which can be allayed by the news of this investment.
A familiar sight for anyone passing through Heathrow during the day is a pair of Qantas A380s parked at a remote stand near Terminal 3.
Whilst providing those on a mundane business trip to Frankfurt or Geneva the opportunity to dream about going somewhere else, it serves as an illustration of the hard economics for Qantas of competing against Middle Eastern and Asian airlines in the London to Australia market.
Currently, Qantas’ twice daily flights to Australia depart late in the evening and arrive in the morning at London Heathrow meaning hugely expensive assets are left on the ground all day doing nothing.
From 20 July 2014, as part of a broader restructuring of Qantas’ network in response to a deteriorating financial performance, Qantas flights to Melbourne will be retimed from a late evening departure to an early afternoon departure.
Qantas has just published its half year results. In the past week there has been a frenzy of speculation in the Australian media following prior warnings from Qantas that it would incur heavy losses resulting in a significant restructuring of the airline and possibly drastic changes to its route network.
The losses themselves are as feared with Qantas reporting a loss before tax of AUD$252 million. Qantas has announced significant job cuts and disposals of aircraft and deferrals of aircraft deliveries.
There has been much speculation about the future of Qantas daily Airbus A380 services from London Heathrow to Sydney and Melbourne, following anecdotal reports of weak demand on the London Heathrow – Dubai sectors of the London – Melbourne routes.
Qantas has today confirmed that the two daily London Heathrow services will remain. However, the London – Melbourne route (currently a late night departure from London and early morning arrival, resulting in significant downtime of nearly 17 hours for the aircraft) will be retimed from November 2014.
We do not yet know what the new times are. One possible option is to retime the departure to late morning, as Qantas used to have to Sydney and Melbourne when it had four daily services from London Heathrow.
There probably isn’t an airline route in the world where travellers have more choice of airlines routings than London to Australia. As non-stop routes between London and Australia remain a technical impossibility and fuel prices mean that is likely to remain the case, a stop en route has always been required.