Qantas has completed the first test of the longest commercial flight from New York to Sydney.
A total of 49 passengers and crew were on the 19 hours 16 minutes flight, which was operated to run a series of experiments to assess health and wellbeing on board. Data from the research could be used to help shape crew operations and customer service on Qantas’ ultra-long-haul flights in the future.
Tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers.
Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jet lag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce commented: “This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.
“We know ultra-long-haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way.
“Night flights usually start with dinner and then lights off. For this flight, we started with lunch and kept the lights on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at our destination. It means you start reducing the jet lag straight away.
“What’s already clear is how much time you can save. Our regular, one-stop New York to Sydney service (QF12) took off three hours before our direct flight but we arrived a few minutes ahead of it, meaning we saved a significant amount of total travel time by not having to stop,” added Joyce.
Two more research flights are planned as part of the Project Sunrise evaluations – London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December. The airline has also stated that emissions from all research flights will be fully offset.
A decision on whether Qantas will proceed with Project Sunrise is expected by the end of the year.