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Qantas nonstop flight from London to Sydney: What we learned

Sydney (CNN) – It feels like the world just got a little smaller. The flight operated by Australian airline Qantas has just made the record journey from London to Sydney, has not stopped, spent 19 hours and 19 minutes in the air, opening the possibility of scheduled direct flights between some of the farthest corners of the planet.

CNN was among several reporters on the research flight, during which scientists collected data on passenger and crew well-being and biometrics. Qantas hopes the data gathered from his Project Sunrise experiments will persuade Australian aviation regulators to allow him to operate so-called 22-plus ultra-long flights on this and other routes.

While the QF7879 flight generated some headlines, it also offered some insights into how the airline world is and what the store holds for the future.

Here are some things we learned:

The future is probably a long way off

flight landing for qantas-2

Qantas Flight QF7879 landed at Sydney Airport 19 hours and 19 minutes into the air.

Ames D Morgan / Cantas

Singapore to New York, Doha to Auckland, Perth to London. The three longest flights in the world complete the clock in over 17 hours – and CNN's Richard Quest is all about them.

Every time one of these long-haul flights takes place, the question arises is it worth it? Ultra-long flights have become economically viable with the arrival of new, lighter, more efficient aircraft such as the A350 and 787 Drinler.

Before they arrived on the scene, planes like the A340-500 and 777LR could do the distance, but they were tough and crave to compare.

The 787 delivers 20% fuel-based fuel savings over the former 747s from home. This gives airlines a much greater margin to make money on long flights, where fuel is a higher percentage of the cost. These profit margins will act as a powerful incentive for carriers to focus on longer flights as a growth area.

The number of these new flights shows how popular they are. Airlines around the world now routinely offer 15-hour flights, and that will continue.

And you'll have to pay more for it

Cantas details

Business class on Kanta's record flight.

Ames D Morgan / Cantas

If London to Sydney or London to New York routes need to move forward in 2022 or 2023 in accordance with the Qantas timetable, don't expect to pick up any discounted tickets.

If the obvious success of the airline's direct service linking the western Australian city of Perth with London nonstop, tickets will be sold at a premium.

Qantas says the London-Perth route usually sells at 20-30% higher rates than its other air fares. And, even at this price point, the airline says it is currently the most popular route it operates, with 95% occupancy – well above the typical 75%. These are not just business travelers. The airline says the route is popular with families who want to pay extra to avoid negotiating disagreements over fueled and exhausted children by flying.

But there is probably room for more stops

Airlines may offer long-haul flights, but not all passengers will want them. Some prefer a stop for stretching the legs and getting cooler air.

The reality is that there is room for both.

Sometimes we want to get there as quickly as possible and put in a can of air for 16 hours in a can for speed. At other times, the idea of ​​getting down to Bangkok or the Gulf can be extremely appealing, especially since many airports have transit hotels, gyms and swimming pools.

So far, only Qatar has run one of the longest routes to the economy. Singapore Airlines is a business and premium economy.

If Cantas's Sunrise Project Sunrise flights included economics, many would probably opt for a 19-hour non-stop stay in Singapore at cheaper places.

Friendly skies matter


Sunset over Kazakhstan.

Barry Nild / CNN

The sky above us is not internationally free for all, where planes can roam at will. Every country jealously guards its airspace, demanding that all aircraft be allowed to operate there.

When it comes to ultra-long-haul planning, where every mile added to the trip extends the operational boundaries of the aircraft, it is essential to be able to draw the most direct route, or the one with the most tails to get into.

In the case of flight QF7879, Qantas had to ask for special permission to fly the course its planes do not operate normally – across Western Europe, then Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China, before entering the known territory through the Philippines and Indonesia.

According to airline officials, getting the permit he needed went down the line. One of the states only granted a final permit 36 ​​hours before departure.

When Qantas last landed on the London-Sydney route – a one-time visit in July 1989 involving a modified Boeing 747-400 carrying only 23 people, the world was a different place. The Soviet Union was still in place, and China was far less open than it is now. A different course is needed to overcome the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Oman and Sri Lanka.

Balance is also important

bucket plane

Flight QF7879 took off on a heavy nose due to an empty economy class.

Barry Nild / CNN

Take a look at modern Jetner up close and you'll be forgiven for thinking – once you marvel at the great opportunity that such a huge machine can fly in the first place – that the position of a few people and even a few cans of soda won't make much difference when it's about balancing it in the air.

It would be wrong.

Flight QF747-9 used a brand new Boeing Dreamliner which, despite being one of the most efficient in its class, still had to reduce the weight of the ship in order to be able to stretch its operating limits. This meant that all of the economy class of more than 150 seats at the back of the cabin was left empty, resulting in a front heavy aircraft, as several passengers on board were concentrated in the premium seats.

The effect was that all hand luggage had to be placed in overhead trucks at the rear and passengers were required to spend as much time at the rear – when practicing and so on – as much as possible.

With the weight of the front, there is more traction, which reduces fuel economy.

In order to further reduce the aircraft's aerodynamic profile, all of its Galicia carts were stored in the rear during a London-Sydney flight. There were also no alcohol trolleys or regular soda cans. The only alcoholic beverage on board was wine and there were no traditional canned drinks.

However, there was a surprisingly abundant supply of coconut water.

Air travel becomes incredibly efficient

qantas plane2

These engines could remain in the air for another 45 minutes.

Barry Nild / CNN

The fact that Qantas is even considering offering trade routes from London and New York to Sydney, and can carry up to 50 passengers in comfort, is proof of the engineering efficiency of modern aircraft.

A look back at 1989 Cantas London-Sydney flight and the most advanced Boeing 747-900 company on the voyage shows how far the industry has come.

Twenty years ago, the plane had to be taken away from everyone but a few basic places to minimize weight. Its fuel tanks were filled to the point of spillage with special aviation fuel imported from Eastern Europe.

To save every last drop, he dragged on the runway before departure. Compare that to the QF7879, which did not require a full fuel tank (it carried about half the flight in 1989) and can hold its cabinet fully.

The latest flight was tested with new Boeing wind forecasting equipment, which uses nearly live data to make minor route adjustments and reduce fuel consumption even further.

The result was that it landed in Sydney with 6,300kg of fuel still aboard. It's just an hour and 45 minutes to fly – 15 minutes longer than expected.

It is impossible to ignore environmental concerns

empty economy

Rows of blanks in the economy.

Richard Quest / CNN

Looking at the row of empty seats of the economy class on board QF7879, thoughts inevitably turned to the recent "shame of flying" phenomenon that advocates avoiding any air travel.

If that was not enough, the effects of the climate crisis affecting the planet were felt in both the country of departure and the destination.

In the UK, the same heavy rains that frightened Heathrow as flying exacerbated heavy flooding in the north of the country, which experts say will face more as the climate changes.

As the plane approached Sydney at the end of the flight, bush fires near the city – again linked to climate change – could be seen developing on the horizon.

Of course, flights like the QF7879 pump more pollutants into the atmosphere and, although Qantas compensate for carbon emissions from the flight through what it claims to be an industry-leading environmental program, the fact that aviation is currently part of the problem of the solution.

That said, air traffic will not go away. It is a key economic driver worldwide and the aviation industry is doing much more than many other sectors to reduce the damage it causes.

Whether that is motivated by public interest in the image, original environmental concerns or increased profit margins delivered by burning less aviation fuel is an open question.

We are still ways to treat aircraft delays


Researcher Tracy Slatten demonstrates headphones for monitoring brain waves.

Barry Nild / CNN

The age of the year has been with us for over half a century, but we are yet to come close to finding a cure for one of the biggest bans on international travel.

Alleged flight medications come in all shapes and sizes, from special headbands that drop the wearer's eyes to blue lights, to pharmaceutical solutions that sometimes come with unpleasant side effects.

If there was one proven, tried and trusted method to quickly reset body clocks, we would all use it.

The fact that jet lag science has not yet proven basic coverage is reflected by the presence of serious scientists on board QF7879 research from academic institutions, including Monash University in Melbourne.

While Qantas' Project Sunrise flights have been rejected by some as a witty publicity seeker, you do not – as airline execs Alan Joyce have pointed out – underline older pilots on weeks of urine testing, unless there are good reason

While Qantas hopes the test data will help regulators approve their long-distance flights, the researchers say their findings could contribute to new ways of minimizing the bad impact on globetrotters.

One hurdle from London-Sydney courtesy of Monash researcher Tracy Slatten: “It's all about the light. The time of day when you get exposure to the light and the intensity of that light will help your aircraft lag behind more than anything else. "

But facilitating flying on the impact on health is possible

flight landing for qantas-5402

Board exercises can help minimize backlogs.

Ames D Morgan / Cantas

Seeing exercise routines in which passengers on board the QF7879 were encouraged to participate was one of the most important features of the party during the 19-hour journey. Comic book coloring up and down through enema, lungs and stretching was far more appealing than the last Tarantino movie offered on seat screens.

But it helps, says Professor Corinne Kailaud of the Charles Perkins Medical Center at the University of Sydney, who led the air-ballistic environment. She says exercise activates blood circulation, stretches muscles and reduces body stiffness. Distinguishing the intestines during the 19 hour workout also relieves jet lag.

Food can also help.

The three meals on the London – Sydney flight were designed to encourage passengers to sleep at the start of the journey and to wake them up later to reflect the time of day of the destination. For example, a heavy rocky dinner served shortly after take-off was to help the passengers' bodies produce an amino acid called tryptophan, which in turn stimulates the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep patterns.

Necessity is the mother of airline innovation

alan jolly cantas

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

Ames D Morgan / Cantas

Qantas CEO is proud of acknowledging that his airline is at the forefront of pushing innovation on ultra-long-haul flights – not only with his Airbus and Boeing project Sunrise challenge to provide the aircraft needed to make the journey commercially viable.

But why is the airline leading the way? "Simple," says Joyce. "Australia is very far from everywhere. We have so many ultra long haul flights. When you think about long haul – Perth to London is already a 17-hour flight, Sydney to Dallas is 16, Santiago is over 14 hours, then we have services directly to London from Sydney that could be 21 hours … Paris, Frankfurt, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro … We can justify a significant fleet that makes it economical. "

There is an aircraft up to 19 hours on board

2. sunrise

Two sunrises in one flight.

Barry Nild / CNN

Spending that long in a 40,000 foot metal tube is not a good idea for many people, but there are a few ups and downs.

Obviously, for those in QF7879, there is a false right to be on record. It has also been a rare spectacle to see two separate sunrises in one trip – something that even if the flight goes on a regular basis, it is unlikely to repeat Qantas, as distributed flight schedules are unlikely to make it possible outside the special events.

It also had the advantage of running on an almost empty, brand new aircraft.

Anyone buying a London-Sydney business headquarters in the future may not feel the same way.

Being packed with cheaper seats – though those with better than average legroom accessory – will be a test of endurance.

That said, spending 20 hours stopping access to the Internet was a rare chance to spend some forced digital slowdown. Perhaps Qantas will more easily appreciate any future Wi-Fi access over budget on the company's expense accounts if the flight becomes a permanent fixture.

Defining the "longest flight in the world" is tricky

flight landing for qantas-8

That's a record!

Ames D Morgan / Cantas

We called the QF7879 a record flight both in terms of duration and distance. Not everyone agrees – and, of course, the differences are subtle. In this case, the flight represents the longest distance covered by a conventional commercial passenger airliner (17,800 kilometers) – and the longest (19 hours 19 minutes).

Of course, you could argue that it doesn't count because this was not a revenue flight – there were no tickets available. That will leave the recorder as Singapore Airlines' SQ32 service from Singapore to New York.

Other long haul applicants include a 22-hour flight in 2005 by PIA Boeing 777 from Hong Kong to London covering 21,601 kilometers. But that can be reduced at a discount because it has deliberately gone astray around the world, a route that will never be operated commercially.

What all these monsters have in common is the need for great crew and passenger endurance. And since they can ultimately be profitable, we will see more of them.

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