This week, Qantas ordered A350-1000s for non-stop, ultra-long-haul (ULH) routes as part of the so-called Project Sunrise.
The four-class aircraft favors higher-yielding passengers – vital for such long routes – with six first seats, 52 in business, 40 in premium economy, and just 140 in economy.
It won’t be as premium-heavy as Singapore Airlines to Los Angeles, JFK, and Newark using smaller A350-900ULRs. The type has just 161 seats – only business and premium economy, and no economy.
One route to see Qantas‘A350s will be Sydney to London Heathrow, 10,573 miles (17,016km) apart. It’s so long that it’ll be 11% farther than the current world’s longest, Singapore to JFK. It’ll have a block time to London of about 20h 30m.
Stay aware: Sign up for my weekly new routes newsletter.
This image shows the A350-1000’s theoretical range of 8,600 nautical miles. The real-world range will probably be 10-15% lower than that. Sydney-Heathrow is 9,188nm, so longer, and that’s based on flying through Russian airspace. It also helps to explain Qantas’ pretty low-density aircraft, increasing range and revenue performance. Image: Qantas.
What will it cost to operate?
Thanks to data provided by experts RDC Aviationwe have an idea of how much the ULH route to London will cost to operate. Not to make a profit but to breakeven, based on a 90% overall seat load factor. Qantas would need more revenue than the numbers shown to make a profit.
One roundtrip will cost approximately US $ 560,0000 – over half a million – to provide, while a 1x daily year-round service will gobble up an estimated $ 204 million. That’s a fifth of a billion dollars just for one daily roundtrip on one route.
RDC shows that the breakeven cost is around $ 1,307 one-way at a passenger level, based on 90% breakeven. It would need to generate $ 1,307 on average from each of the 214 passengers across cabins. On top will be government taxes, a large and increasing amount, and potentially a fuel surcharge and any other fees.
n”” data-modal-id=”single-image-modal” data-modal-container-id=”single-image-modal-container” data-img-caption=””””>
Fuel will be over 50% of the cost
The above numbers are just the costs, over half of which is from fuel, which is sky-high now and reflected in the above numbers.
That fuel makes up such a high amount is no surprise: fuel becomes a disproportionately larger proportion of expenses on long-haul routes. They’re much more exposed to fluctuations in the price of jet fuel, none more so than this soon-to-be world’s longest route.
If the fuel price is even higher in 2025, the numbers above will go up. And if lower …
Sydney-Heathrow non-stop would be over 1,000 miles farther than the world’s current longest, Singapore-JFK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.
What’s the current quickest option?
Depending on demand specifics, a subset of a market may be willing to pay more for a faster, easier, and more convenient experience. And it can be monetized, as demonstrated by Qantas, with a quicker overall journey and no need to transit en route. At a 90% seat factor, it’d need 156,000 roundtrip passengers a year.
Based on Monday, May 9th, Google Flights shows the quickest journey time from Sydney to Heathrow is with Singapore Airlines. At 22h 40m, it includes a potentially worryingly short 50-minute connection in Changi. It is 50 minutes faster than Qantas’ existing same-plane Sydney-Darwin-Heathrow service.
It’d be about two hours longer than Qantas’ non-stop offering. You’d leave Australia at 18:00, arrive in Singapore at 00:20 the following day, leave at 01:10, and arrive at Heathrow at 07:45.
To what degree would you value a break to stretch your legs and refocus versus a quicker, easier trip? Let us know in the comments.
Over 8,000 Miles: The World’s Longest Airline Routes in May 2022
About The Author