Coronavirus has left many airlines in despair as countries across the globe impose strict travel restrictions to halt the spread of covid-19. But now, Qantas Airways has shone a light at the end of the tunnel which they have named “Project Sunrise”.
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Despite the airline having already cancelled all of its international flights through to at least the end of May, they are still pushing ahead with their plans to offer their customers regular non-stop flights from Sydney to London.
Today, pilots voted in favour of a pay deal that will help pave the way for Qantas to regularly fly the world’s longest commercial flight.
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Originally, Qantas had planned on making the decision on whether to order 12 Airbus SE A350-1000 planes for the flights at the end of this month.
But now the deadline has been pushed back to the end of the year when hopefully the coronavirus pandemic will be under control.
Qantas’ Chief Pilot Dick Tobiano said in a statement: “The extraordinary circumstances facing aviation has seen Airbus agree to extend the deadline on our decision to purchase the A350s so we can both focus on navigating the coronavirus crisis.
“But when this period has passed, and it will, we will refocus our attention on Project Sunrise and the A350 order,” he added.
The name of the project, “sunrise”, comes from the fact the airline had to make the endurance flights during World War Two.
The flights have a double-sunrise due to the time differences.
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If Qantas go ahead and order the planes at the end of the year, the non-stop flights could be made available in the first half of 2023.
The airline will likely charge passengers a premium to avoid the stop over.
There could also be other destinations on the list, including New York.
Last year, the airline operated three test flights to see if the crew and passengers could cope with such a long flight.
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The test flights operated between Sydney, New York and London.
Mark Sedgwick, the president of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) – which is the union representing Qantas pilots said 85 percent had voted in favour of the agreement.
Earlier this month, AIPA told members that the proposed pay deal was “unsatisfactory”.
But the memo from AIPA also said that pilots should make their own decision following the pay deal due to the threat of finding pilots elsewhere and an uncertain economic climate.
The airline later announced plans to put two-thirds of its workforce on leave after it stopped international flights and cut domestic flights.
The move has been seen across a number of international airlines as more than 50 countries banned passenger flights.
However, Austrian Airlines also made a bold move and made a 9,918-mile journey from Vienna to Sydney to pick up Austrians stranded in Australia due to the coronavirus measures.
This was the airline’s longest flight in its 60-year history.
Last week, Qantas did the same after Singapore banned transit passengers.
Qantas flew its first ever A380 non-stop service from Australia to London.
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