UK-Australia direct flights: First year success increases chance for non-stop trips to Sydney

Simon Calder
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UK-Australia direct flights: First year success increases chance for non-stop trips to Sydney

A year to the day after the first nonstop scheduled flight from the UK to Australia landed, the airline says “almost every flight is full” on the link.

Qantas, which launched flight QF10 from Heathrow to Perth, also said pilots are covering the 9,009 miles between the two cities much faster than expected.

Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas, said: “There were a lot of expectations around this flight, both within Qantas and the broader community, and frankly it’s exceeded them.

“The work we put into managing passenger jetlag and designing a comfortable cabin has paid off. It’s the longest flight on our entire network but it has the highest level of customer satisfaction.”

The flight uses a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with 236 seats split between business, premium economy and economy.

Qantas revealed the average load factor is 94 per cent, meaning that only 14 seats are empty on a typical flight. The load factor is on a par with budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, and way ahead of the airline’s systemwide average of 80 per cent.

“Almost every flight is full and 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,” said Mr Joyce.

The split between British and Australian residents is skewed: only 31 per cent of passengers are UK residents, with Australians almost twice as numerous. The remaining 10 per cent are other nationalities.

The flight is scheduled to take 16 hours 45 minutes, but the average is 40 minutes faster. The quickest ever is 15 hours 15 minutes – an average speed of 593mph, or almost 10 miles a minute for the whole journey.

“We didn’t plan to regularly break speed records in both directions,” said Mr Joyce.

The most popular meals in business are Cone Bay barramundi and beef and Yorkshire pudding, washed down with red wine. In economy, the Guinness beef pie with potato mash – with white wine the most popular drink.

Out of 720 planned services, only four have been cancelled – two of them as a result of a “hyper-aggressive” passenger in September 2018. The plane had flown 1,000 miles from Perth when it turned around to the Western Australia capital and the trip (as well as its inbound leg) was cancelled.

The most watched film on the route so far is Mission Impossible: Fallout.

The success of the link makes a plan to connect Heathrow nonstop with Sydney and, possibly, Melbourne, all the more likely.

Qantas is working on “Project Sunrise” to develop what will be the world’s longest flight at over 10,500 miles.

Ultra-long-haul flights consume significantly more fuel per passenger mile than one-stop flights, and are consequently more damaging to the environment.