Qantas Airways: On board for close to a day
Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew, and passengers.
The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.
Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.
Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.
If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.
- How UK-Australia travel evolved to one flight
- Can long-haul air travel also be low cost?
No commercial aircraft yet has the range to fly such an ultra-long haul route with a full passenger and cargo load, Reuters news agency reports.
To give the plane sufficient fuel range to avoid re-fueling, the Qantas flight took off with maximum fuel, restricted baggage load and no cargo.
Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.
Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.
On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.
“This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
Competition in the ultra-long haul aviation market has intensified in recent years, with various airlines flying extended routes.
Singapore Airlines launched a near-19 hour journey from Singapore to New York last year, which is currently the world’s longest regular commercial flight.
Also last year, Qantas began a 17-hour non-stop service from Perth to London, while Qatar Airways operates a 17.5-hour service between Auckland and Doha.