Will success of historic London-Perth route help usher in an era of ultra long-haul flying?

Oliver Smith
The 17-hour service to Perth is running at 94 per cent capacity - zetter

One year on from its launch the historic Qantas service from London to Perth, the first scheduled non-stop flight between Britain and Australia, has been hailed a roaring success.

“Almost every flight is full,” according to the airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce, raising the prospect of a direct link between the UK and other Australian destinations, such as Sydney and Melbourne, in the near future.

How popular has the route been?

Very. Qantas says QF10’s average passenger load factor (PLF) is 94 per cent. The flight uses a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with 236 seats - split between economy, premium economy and business class - so that’s just 14 empty seats, on average, for each service.

It’s the sort of PLF other airlines dream of. The International Air Transport Association reports that the global PLF average was 81.4 per cent in 2017, while the likes of Emirates and Etihad recorded figures of 77.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent, respectively.

“There were a lot of expectations around this flight, both within Qantas and the broader community, and frankly it’s exceeded them,” said Joyce. “It turned a profit almost immediately, which is rare for new services because they have start up costs and it normally takes time to build demand. A year of operating this route shows that a hub in Western Australia connecting Australia to the world works really well.”

The success of the route hasn’t been the only pleasant surprise. Journey times have often been shorter than expected. Qantas allows 17 hours to cover the 9,009 miles from Heathrow to Perth, and average journey times have been 17 hours and 1 minute. But the Dreamliner has completed the distance in as little as 16 hours and 19 minutes. The return leg is quicker, thanks to prevailing winds, taking 16 hours and five minutes on average – but the run has taken as little as 15 hours and 15 minutes.

Who is flying on the service?

More Australians than Britons are taking advantage of the historic non-stop flight. Around three in 10 passengers come from the UK, compared to six in 10 from Down Under. The remainder are a variety of nationalities.

This is what business class looks like Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

A few other facts and figures have been published regarding the service:

A total of 450,000 meals have been served on the route. The most popular dishes in business class have been Cone Bay barramundi and beef and Yorkshire pudding, with red wine being favoured. Economy class passengers prefer white wine and have been particularly keen on the Guinness and beef pie with mash.

The most watched movie so far has been Mission Impossible: Fallout, our film critic’s “blockbuster of the summer”, while the favoured TV shows have been Ballers, Billions and Modern Family.

Most glued to the in-flight entertainment system has been, on average, those passengers sitting in seat 56F. Collectively, they have clocked up 9,134 hours of viewing, 100 more than any other.

But most glued to their seat was one unnamed gentleman who did not leave his business class seat for the whole 17-hour journey. He was taking part in a study to monitor in-flight behaviour and reportedly said he was so comfortable in his flat bed that he felt no need to move (yes, this sounds suspiciously like a marketing hoax from Qantas – but we’re assured it’s legit).

A premium economy cabin on the Qantas Dreamliner Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

How do passengers rate the experience?

Telegraph Travel’s Annabel Fenwick Elliott used the service earlier this year, testing both the economy and premium economy cabins (thanks to an unexpected upgrade). The meals were above average, she said, the Dreamliner’s cabin comfortable, and the long journey time far preferable to disembarking somewhere in the Middle East and hanging around an airport for several hours. Best of all, the prices are competitive. Read her full review here.

Economy class. What most of us are used to Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

So what’s next for Qantas?

Last year Qantas said it hoped to launch direct flights from London to Sydney, a 20-hour, 10,573-mile marathon, by 2022.

It is part of “Project Sunrise”, the airline’s plan to fly non-stop to any city it chooses. Qantas has challenged Airbus and Boeing, the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturers, to redevelop their existing jets and help it usher in a new era of ultra long-haul travel. A version of Boeing’s 777 or Airbus’s A350 could be used to fly from London to Sydney, while routes from the UK to Melbourne, and from Australia to Paris, Rio, Cape Town and New York have also been mooted.

The success of London-Perth should only stiffen its resolve to make Project Sunrise a reality.