12 DECEMBER 2016
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Yesterday (Sunday 11 December), Qantas announced it is to launch non-stop service between Perth and London from March 2018 using a 236-seat Dreamliner. This is clearly good news for those with interests at either end of the route.
But more generally, it shows the spirit of adventure in aviation is not dead after all and there are still those willing to take advantage of the ever-developing technology to broaden horizons.
The complex world of airline finance comes into it too. The newly-energised Qantas is inviting and can expect fierce competition with its bold move, but the airline’s boss, Alan Joyce, was not kidding when he said the history-making route would be a watershed for travel, tourism and trade.
A concern for potential passengers is the length of the 9,000 mile (14,498km) flight, reckoned to take 17hr more or less, a concern Joyce was also quick to address. Acknowledging the qualities of the B787-9, he noted that passenger comfort was “a key consideration”.
“When we designed the interior of our 787s, we wanted to make sure passengers would be comfortable on the extended missions the aircraft was capable of,” he said. “That’s why we have features in our Economy seats that other airlines reserve for Premium Economy. Our Business Suite has been nicknamed ‘mini-First Class’ by many of our frequent flyers. And we’re redesigning our on-board service to help reduce jetlag.”
The enhanced Qantas cabin design, he added, was in addition to the comfort factors that Boeing had built in to the Dreamliner, such as improved air quality, lower cabin noise and technology to reduce turbulence. “This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft,” Joyce said.
As for the appeal of a Perth – London non-stop, Joyce was clearly addressing his home market with his remarks, but much of what he said applies equally the other way round.
It was, he said, great news for travellers because it would make it easier to get to London (and Perth). It was great news for Western Australia (and London) because it would bring jobs and tourism. And it was great news for Australia (and the UK), because it would bring the nation closer to one of its biggest trade partners and sources of visitors.
The new flight will operate through Qantas’ existing domestic terminals (T3/4) at Perth Airport, which will be upgraded to accommodate international flights. Current international services from Perth to Singapore and to Auckland will also move to this terminal. Subject to commercial agreements, Qantas will then move its operations to an expanded Terminal 1 by 2025.
Footnote: In August 1989, the first Qantas 747-438 being delivered by Boeing, the City of Canberra, set a distance record for a commercial aircraft by flying 9,720 mile (18,000km) non-stop between London and Sydney in 20hr 9min 5sec, creating publicity for the airline's "Longreach" services with the 747-400.
The flight departed Heathrow under the command of Captain David Massey-Greene, Qantas Boeing 747-400 project pilot, with a flight crew comprising Qantas captains Ray Heiniger, Rob Greenop and George Lindeman, and Captain Chet Chester from Boeing. In addition to the five pilots, there were two cabin crew and 16 passengers aboard.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Kevin Oliver, Odiham
Some years ago when the 747 SP was introduced it had extended flight times. I remember my girlfriend, a BOAC stewardess saying "My goodness, just think how those toilets will be" Presumably the vacuum versions will cope
Mike Pitman, Jersey