Qantas To Launch Project Sunrise Flights In 2025

Qantas already operates the A350-1000 and has now ordered a new ultra-long-range variant for Project Sunrise.
Credit: Rob Finlayson

Qantas has confirmed a much-delayed order for the Airbus A350-1000s it will use for its Project Sunrise ultra-long-range flights, and it has also finalized orders for Airbus narrowbodies to replace its domestic fleet.

The carrier announced firm orders for 12 A350-1000s, which are due to be delivered between 2025 and 2028. The first two routes for Project Sunrise will be Sydney (SYD) to London (LHR) and New York (JFK). However, the airline has also discussed a list of other potential destinations in Europe and elsewhere.

The Sydney-London non-stop route is about 500 nm further than the current range of the A350-1000, Airbus tells Aviation Week Network. The extra route length will be made possible with an additional center fuel tank. This will carry 20,000 liters of fuel, adding to the standard A350-1000 fuel load of 159,000 liters.

The range capability of the Qantas aircraft will be boosted to about 9,700 nm, compared to 8,700 nm for the standard A350-1000. The lower seat density will decrease weight and help with range. There will be no change to the engines or thrust on the Qantas version.

Airbus confirmed the A350-1000s delivered to Qantas would theoretically be able to fly between Sydney and London while avoiding Russian airspace. The additional fuel tank will not compromise performance on routes that do not need the extra range, Airbus said.

Qantas has been discussing its ambitions for Project Sunrise for years. It did a significant amount of work to build a business case for these flights, and in 2019 it selected Airbus A350-1000s as its preferred choice to operate them. The carrier had also previously indicated it would order up to 12 of these aircraft.

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In finalizing the order, Qantas also revealed details of the planned configuration of the A350-1000s. They will have 238 seats comprising six first-class suites, 52 business class suites, 40 premium economy seats, and 140 in economy. This means 40% of the seats will be premium, and Qantas said these aircraft will have a lower seat count than any A350-1000s currently in service.

Qantas also announced firm orders for 40 Airbus narrowbody aircraft. The carrier had already outlined its narrowbody order plans in December, and the aircraft types and numbers are unchanged from that preview.

The deal comprises initial orders for 20 A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s, with purchase rights for another 94 narrowbodies from the A320 and A220 families. Qantas has selected the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engine for both aircraft types.

The A220 firm orders are due to start arriving in late 2023, and the larger A321XLRs are due from late 2024. These deliveries will begin the replacement of the Boeing 717s and 737s used in the carrier’s domestic fleet. The purchase rights are for deliveries to be spread over the next decade

Qantas already has orders for 109 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft, which were primarily earmarked for its Jetstar subsidiary. These commitments will be pooled with the new orders, allowing flexibility in how they are deployed within the Qantas Group.

Jetstar is due to take delivery of 18 A321LRs from the existing orders starting in July. The Qantas Group has also announced that another 20 aircraft from its narrowbody orderbook will be allocated as A321XLRs for Jetstar, with delivery set to begin in the second half of 2024.

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.