Quantas will test run direct flights from London to Sydney and New York to Sydney later this year to see how the lengthy journeys will affect crew and passengers.
The three research flights will carry up to 40 people, mostly crew, and could take place as early as October, the airline said on Thursday.
The tests are part of Project Sunrise, the airline’s ambitious plan to operate regular flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York. Quantas will offer direct flights from London to Sydney from 2022, based on current plans.
Planned for October, November and December, the three test flights will run on new Boeing 787-9s and will simulate two Project Sunrise Routes.
People in the cabin, mostly Qantas employees, will be fitted with wearable devices. These will be used to monitor how sleep patterns, the lighting and what they eat, drink and watch onboard impacts their health and body clocks.
Pilots will wear electroencephalogram – or EEG – devices to track brainwaves and monitor alertness ahead of, during and after the flight.
The research has been planned in partnership with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Monash University, which is based in Melbourne.
The aim is to develop data that will help in building the optimum work and rest pattern for pilots operating long haul services.
“Ultra-long haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them,” Quantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
“For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights.”
The London to Sydney flight will clock up 10,573-miles exceeding the distance flown on the airline’s longest current route, London to Perth – which is 8,991-miles and takes 17 hours. Qantas offered the first direct connection between London and Australia.
Its London to Perth flight launched in March 2018. Passengers on board the inaugural journeys were also fitted with monitors as part of a study into the effects of long-haul flights on the human body.
As part of its Project Sunrise ambitions, Quantas challenged the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing to develop a plane that is capable of flying to any destination in the world from anywhere else.
Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to the airline that are capable of operating the flights.
A final decision on Project Sunrise is expected in December 2019, and will depend on aircraft economics, regulatory approvals and industrial agreements.
“There’s plenty of enthusiasm for Sunrise, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. This is ultimately a business decision and the economics have to stack up,” said Joyce.
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