Travel | August 22, 2019 11:26 am

Is Qantas About to Launch the World’s Longest Nonstop Flight?

Test flights will determine if passengers can handle 19+ hours in the air

Qantas Project Sunrise
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce and Captain Lisa Norman explain the 19-hour flight

I fly to Australia almost every year to visit my girlfriend’s family and friends in Melbourne. To leave from New York (or Newark), we have to connect through either Dallas or Los Angeles.

It adds a lot of hassle to an already-stressful and long trip — one that, thanks to time zone differences, can see us leaving on a Tuesday and arriving on a Thursday. So the news that Qantas is testing direct flights from New York and London to Australia is promising.

As the airline notes, they’ll be re-purposing three 787-9 delivery flights for test runs this fall. On board: 40 people (including crew), all fitted with wearable health tech that can monitor sleep patterns, food/beverage consumption, lighting and physical movement. Meanwhile, researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels and brain-wave patterns before, during and after the 19-hour flights.

“For customers, the key will be minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight,” explains Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. “For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during their down time on these flights.”

A nice bonus: The airline plans to offset all carbon emissions from the flights, part of Qantas’s on-going airline carbon offset scheme.

This is all part of a larger initiative called Project Sunrise, which would see Qantas operate regular non-stop commercial flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York. While the airline is hyping this up by calling it the “final frontier in aviation,” they’re not that far off: No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York to Australia, and only once from London to Sydney.

One problem? There’s no current aircraft that could economically make this journey, as the travel publication God Save the Points suggests, though proposals from Boeing and Airbus have been made. The air travel site also points out the current longest flight in the world, between New York and Singapore, is a modified Airbus A350 that only has premium economy and business class seats.

Because at 19 hours, you really don’t want to fly economy.

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