In a little under six months Qantas will launch direct flights from London Heathrow to Perth. If the route is a success it will herald the start of a new era in aviation with direct flights to Brisbane and Sydney likely to follow.
Preparations for the launch moved a step closer this week as Qantas first Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner arrived in Sydney bearing the name “Great Southern Land”. Whilst Qantas is a little late getting on the Dreamliner bus, the airline is seizing the opportunity to reassert itself in international travel.
Qantas’ Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner will operate on scheduled international flights on Melbourne to Los Angeles from Friday 15 December 2017. London Heathrow to Perth to follow on Sunday 25 March 2018, by which time Qantas will have four Dreamliners in its fleet. As is par the course for new aircraft types, Qantas will operate the Dreamliner on selected domestic flights in Australia for crew training and familiarisation purposes.
Qantas has released final images of its economy, premium economy and business class cabins on the 236 seat aircraft. There is no first class cabin on this aircraft.
Qantas announced its annual financial results in Sydney today. The airline posted a healthy profit before tax of AUD$1.4bn. This is a sharp turnaround in fortunes for Qantas after it reported a record loss of AUD$2.8bn three years ago. Much of the turnaround has been achieved through a restructuring of its international network.
Qantas has also today given a firm expression of interest in launching non-stop flights between London and Sydney by 2022.
Qantas has tasked aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing to produce new aircraft under development, the Airbus A350 Ultra Long Range and the Boeing 777X respectively, with sufficient range to operate London to Sydney non-stop with no restrictions on passenger loads.
Qantas claim that a non-stop flight between London and Sydney could shave four hours off the journey time.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce commented:
“From next year we’ll be flying direct from Perth to London, which is a huge leap forward. We believe advances in technology in the next few years will make Sydney to London direct a possibility and Qantas is well placed to be the airline to do it.
“Any aircraft purchase would have to meet strict financial thresholds, but these direct flights would be revolutionary for air travel in Australia.”
Airlines do not ordinarily give away commercial decisions on route launches away years in advance, and this is a very public message aimed squarely at aircraft manufacturers to sharpen their pencils.
It is also axiomatic that the viability of non-stop flights from London to Sydney will depend on how non-stop flights to Perth are received, both in terms of cabin comfort and whether passengers, particularly those at the front of the aircraft, are willing to pay a premium for non-stop services.
Personally, we would love to see non-stop flights to Sydney and for Qantas to rebuild its presence in London back to four flights a day.
Following the news today that Qantas is to fly direct from London Heathrow to Perth from Sunday 25 March 2018, Qantas has also confirmed it is to also withdraw its service from London Heathrow to Melbourne via Dubai, operated with the Airbus A380.
Instead, passengers wishing to travel between London and Melbourne courtesy of Qantas can either fly on an Emirates codeshare service with a change of aircraft in Dubai.
At the time of writing return fares (including a Saturday night stay) near to launch are in the region of £1,260 for economy and £4,231 for business class.
Last year Qantas gained huge worldwide publicity with the promise of non-stop flights between London and Perth, operated by the Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner. With a flight time from London Heathrow of 15 hours and 45 minutes, this will be the longest non-stop route from London. The airline has since also mooted the possibility of non-stop flights between London and Sydney in appoximately five years’ time with either new long range Boeing or Airbus aircraft.
This week’s Australian Financial Review magazine carries an extensive feature on Qantas. It is well worth a read. Much of the feature focuses on the work Qantas is doing to prepare for non-stop flights between London Heathrow and Perth.
These flights are due to go on sale in April 2017 in advance of the route’s launch in March 2018. Whilst Qantas is still keeping some details under wraps, such its new premium economy seat, it has given the AFR some insight into its preparations for the new route. Specifically, Qantas is looking at the whole “ultra long-haul” in flight experience. This includes the design and timing of in flight meals, cabin lighting and in-flight announcements.
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.
International Airlines Group held its annual Capital Markets Day on Friday 15 November 2013. This is an event where a very large volume of financial and strategic material is presented to institutional investors and analysts. However, there are small items of news (more to follow) of interest to the public at large.
One concerns the London-Singapore-Sydney route. Ever since Qantas jettisoned its partnership with BA in favour of a joint-venture with Emirates there has been speculation as to whether BA would be able to continue to serve Australia directly.
Qantas published its annual results for the year ended 30 June 2013 last week. The airline posted a modest net profit of AUD$6 million after tax, which was a significant improvement over last year’s loss of AUD$206 million.
This was primarily due a reduction in losses at Qantas’ International division, which prompted a significant reduction in capacity to Europe and the jettisoning of Qantas’ partnership with BA in favour of Emirates, by almost half to AUD$246 million.
Whilst the partnership between Emirates and Qantas is still very much in its infancy, it is curious that Qantas seems to have declined to give any clear revenue guidance on the partnership. In its results it gave only vague operational measures such as “2 times increase in codeshare bookings on EK network” and “3 times increase in EK bookings on Qantas Domestic network” compared to the partnership with British Airways and others. It is hard to draw any conclusions from such claims without seeing the detail behind the headlines.
Meanwhile, British Airways has remained upbeat on the performance of its last remaining Australian route, London-Singapore-Sydney.