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Project Sunrise is Qantas’ ambitious plan to offer non-stop flights from the Australian east coast to cities in Europe and cities on the east coast of the United States. Back in December, the airline announced that it had selected the Airbus A350-1000 to be the aircraft that would operate the first groundbreaking routes and that it would be making a final decision on the viability of the project in March 2020. That announcement now seems like a lifetime ago.
A lot has changed in the past few months and Executive Traveller has now reported that it has confirmation from Alan Joyce (CEO of Qantas) that Project Sunrise is being paused.
Given the current state of the aviation industry (and the travel industry as a whole) this isn’t exactly surprising news but Joyce appears confident that the Project will be resurrected when conditions improve. In a quote given to Executive Traveller, Joyce said the following:
“We do think there is a huge potential for Project Sunrise but the time is not right now, given the impact that COVID-19 has had on world travel, but we do think there’s still a good business case for it, and a good opportunity.”
Qantas has put a lot of hard work into examining the viability of Project Sunrise and even recently managed to reach an agreement with its pilots over salaries, benefits, and conditions for crews operating the longest flights in the world so it’s understandable that Joyce still wants to see this happen…even if it has to be put off for a few years.
One of the bigger losers in this situation will be Airbus from whom Qantas was expected to order up to 12 specially adapted A350-1000s with the first orders expected this year…but that’s certainly not going to happen now. Qantas has only just finished raising cash against a number of its aircraft (AU$1.6bn from ten of its 787s) to give itself some breathing room while the passenger aviation world is at a standstill, so any plans it may have had for aircraft orders are definitely on the back burner for now.
Disappointing but expected and understandable is probably the best way to describe this news. This is definitely not the time for an airline to be playing around with a highly experimental route (or set of routes) so let’s hope that the current crisis doesn’t linger for too long as it would be a shame to see Project Sunrise consigned to the annals of history as a nice idea that never got off the ground.