Qantas announced on Friday that after reviewing the 777-8 and A350-1000 jets, it has selected Airbus as a “preferred” aircraft in its Sunrise project, which provides ultra-long-haul flights connecting cities from Australia to destinations like New York and London nonstop.
The Australian airline, however, has made it clear that it is not yet an order, but is working closely with Airbus to prepare a contract to purchase 12 planes to be reviewed by its executive committee by March 2020.
Airbus, for its part, has extended the deadline to set aircraft production slots from February to March to enable aircraft to be delivered in 2023, when Qantas plans to open long-haul flights. To meet Qantas requirements, Airbus will extend the A350-1000’s fuel capacity while increasing its maximum takeoff weight.
The decision to discard the 777X was not explained, but Qantas hinted that the reliability of Rolls Royce’s Trent XWB turbofans weighed in on the choice. The Boeing jet utilizing the new GE9X engine which, while promising low fuel consumption, is still in a developmental stage while Trent has been used by several airlines for a long time.
Last test flight
“Between the research flights and what we’ve learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like New York and London to the east coast of Australia. The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience,” explained Alan Joyce, CEO of the Qantas group.
To assess crew and passenger health conditions, Qantas is conducting test flights with weight-restricted aircraft. There will be three flights in all and the last one, between Sydney and New York, will take off on December 17th.
The airline is also discussing with the pilots’ union ways to make long-range flights viable, granting a three percent increase in wages and promotion opportunities for long-range flight crew.