The Boeing 787-9 plans to take 17 hours to travel the distance between Perth and London
At around three o’clock in the noon of this Saturday, local time (at noon, EST time), the Boeing 787-9 license plate VH-ZND of the Australian airline Qantas has taken off from the Perth airport, in Western Australia, opening a new chapter in the history of commercial aviation: for the first time, an airline begins operating a regular direct flight between Australia and the United Kingdom.
The planned route of the airplane travels slightly more than 7,800 nautical miles (14,500 kilometers). Piloted in a first segment by captain Lisa Norman, the device is scheduled to land at London Heathrow airport at 4.10 am on Sunday, 17 hours after takeoff.
It is not the first time that a commercial airplane flies without stops between Australia and the United Kingdom. Qantas himself flew in 1989 a Boeing 747 between London and Sydney. In 2015, another 747 reconverted flew 364 passengers between Perth and Istanbul on a special flight for the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli.
But this is the company’s first regular bet for so-called ultra-long distance flights (ULHF), which, in the future, may include direct connections between the east coast of the United States and Oceania. The flight Qantas 9 will operate the route Melbourne – Perth – London.
The connections between Australia and Europe, the so-called “kangaroo routes”, are among the most profitable of international aviation and are the target of fierce competition between airlines around the world, especially those in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In the words of the CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, with the operation, the airline breaks “the last frontier of global aviation”.
However, the route is not the longest in regular operation in the world: the Qatar Airways connection between Doha (Qatar) and Auckland (New Zealand) using Airbus A350, covers 30 more kilometers.
In addition to improving air links with Oceania, the ULHF market opens up possibilities to directly connect Southeast Asia with Latin America. But it also forces airlines to rethink how to deal with their passengers during journeys that exceed 15 hours.
According to the Australian tabloid Daily Telegraph, some passengers of the Qantas 9 flight have sensors installed by technicians from the University of Sydney to measure their sleeping, hydration and feeding patterns, before, during and after the trip.