A Qantas 787-9 (VH-ZNA) departing Adelaide. Image courtesy of Mertie.
Australia and New Zealand have been some of the destinations of the longest flights in the world, particularly due to their geographic locations. With its main base in Sydney, Qantas needs some serious long range aircraft in order to be able to transport passengers across long distances in an efficient way. The carrier has previously ordered the A380 for high traffic routes, as well as the 747-400ER, allowing it to fly nonstop to the west coast of the United States. Last year, Qantas received the first of eight 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, aimed to allow it to operate long-haul routes in a low-density premium configuration. Furthermore, Qantas is in talks with Boeing and Airbus regarding an "ultra-long-haul" aircraft capable of operating Sydney to New York and London nonstop; the contenders of this competition are believed to be the A350-900ULR and the 777-8.
On March 24, 2018, Qantas began a new chapter in its history when it operated the first nonstop flight between Australia and Europe. The flight, QF9, flew between Perth in Western Australia and London, and was operated by VH-ZND, a 787-9 painted in the Aboriginal livery. The flight was expected to take 16 hours and 40 minutes. Qantas has scheduled the westbound flight to be 17 hours and 20 minutes long, while eastbound flights are typically 16 hours and 45 minutes long. QF9, the outbound flight, departs at 6:45 PM and arrives at 5:05 AM the next day in London (all times local), while QF10, the inbound flight, departs at 1:15 PM London time and arrives the next day at 1:00 PM Australian time.
Compared to other airlines, Qantas has configured its 787-9 Dreamliners in a low-density, premium-heavy configuration with only 236 seats. Much of the front half of the plane consists of business class, which is composed of 42 lie-flat seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, ensuring that every seat has direct aisle access. According to Forbes, each seat is 24 inches wide, has 46 inches of pitch, and reclines into a 80-inch long flat bed. These fully-featured seats offer amenities that flyers have come to expect such as a 16-inch wide video screen, as well as USB and AC power ports. Immediately behind business class lies the intimate Premium Economy cabin. These seats are fairly standard for international Premium Economy, with 20.5 inches of width and 38 inches of pitch. The 28 seats in this cabin are laid out in a 2-3-2 7-abreast configuration. They feature adequate storage compartments, as well as a 13.3 inch diagonal length video screen. Finally, in the rear half of the aircraft you'll come across 166 standard economy seats arranged in the now-standard 3-3-3 configuration. Although these will be on the tight side when it comes to width (at 17.2 inches), they come with 32 inches of pitch, and feature a "foot net" for optimized comfort, a 11.1 inch diameter video screen, as well as USB/AC power ports.
The original "kangaroo route," which began in 1947, carried passengers from Sydney to London over a period of 4 days, with 7 refueling stops en route. Roundtrip tickets on that flight cost £525, at a time when the medial wage for Australians was just £7 per week. Nowadays, roundtrip flights between Perth and London start at roughly $1,400 roundtrip, which is even lower than the median weekly Australian income of $1,600. Furthermore, this 16-hour flight will go by in a flash on the Dreamliner, with a wider cabin and lower cabin altitude, as compared to the previous multi-day trip on the Lockheed Constellation.
Qantas has designed their entire Dreamliner experience around comfort, as this aircraft will be operating the carrier's longest flights. For example, their menus are "designed to maintain hydration, aid sleep and reducing jetlag." Furthermore, the Dreamliner cabin is naturally set to a lower, more humid cabin altitude, making the environment more pleasing to customers. Finally, Qantas took advantage of the Dreamliner's lighting system to help passengers adjust to their destination's time zone.
I'm really excited to see Qantas kick off this route and I hope to be on their 787-9 sometime in the future!