by Simon Calder, The Independent, April 27, 2017
The first ever non-stop passenger flight from Europe to Australia is set to make history when it departs from Heathrow airport at 1.30pm on Sunday 25 March 2018.
Qantas has announced the schedule and fares for the its new non-stop link from London to Perth in Western Australia. Passengers are being asked for a substantial premium for the privilege of a faster journey. Seats for the first flight priced at £755 one-way (based on a round-trip purchase) started selling quickly as soon as they went on sale.
When combined with an inbound flight, typically costing £590, the total fare of £1,345 is almost twice the price of a one-stop trip on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, which is charging just £694 return for London-Perth flights late March out/mid-April back.
Qantas says fares for the London-Perth non-stop are “expected to drop below £900 return during deal periods”.
The timings are broadly as predicted by The Independent. The outbound flight, assisted by the jet stream, will cover the ground in 15 hours, 45 minutes – arriving at 1.15pm the following day.
The inbound service takes over two-and-a-half hours longer because of the prevailing headwinds; it will leave Perth at 6.50pm and, after a very long night, disturb the slumbers of west London residents by touching down at 5am, arriving 10 minutes later at Terminal 3.
The two cities are 9,009 miles apart, which will make it by far the longest non-stop flight from the UK. The current longest routes are both from Heathrow: on Garuda Indonesia to Jakarta (7,275 miles), and on British Airways to Santiago de Chile (7,248 miles).
But the new route is not the world’s longest non-stop; the current record-holder is Qatar Airways from Doha to Auckland (9,025 miles), and by next year longer links are likely – for example from Singapore to New York.
The actual track flown by the Qantas QF10 is likely to be longer than the “Great Circle” track on which distances are calculated. The most direct flight path between London and Perth crosses the disputed Crimea region, the Caucasus and Iran. It then follows the western coast of India to Sri Lanka, which is 5,400 miles from London.
The remaining 3,600 miles, about the same as from Heathrow to New York, crosses the eastern Indian Ocean.
The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” on the ultra-long route will have 42 business class “suites”, 28 premium economy seats and 166 economy seats.
The Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: “We’ve said the Qantas Dreamliner is a game changer, and that’s becoming real today.
Qantas introduce UK to Australia non-stop flight in under 16 hours
“It used to take four days and seven stops but now we’re able to link the UK and Australia in a single hop. It’s a level of convenience those in Europe have never had before.
“We’re conscious that this is a long flight, but not much longer than our Sydney to Dallas service. It’s the kind of route that the Dreamliner was created for, because of its built-in features to reduce jetlag and improve the overall travel experience.
“We’ve added a very high level of comfort in each of the cabins and a lower seat count than most of our competitors. And we’re making tweaks to our in-flight service designed to help customers enjoy the journey more.”
The first of three main meals, lunch, will be served over Germany, with dinner over the Arabian Sea portion of the Indian Ocean. Passengers will be served breakfast two hours before touchdown at Perth.
Environmental campaigners are angered by the new breed of ultra-long-haul routes, because the fuel-burn per passenger is so high; much of the kerosene is consumed flying fuel for later in the flight.
The plane will continue from Perth to Melbourne, touching down around 9pm and shaving 45 minutes from the current Qantas link from Heathrow via Dubai. But some business travellers accustomed to the Airbus A380 used on the existing route have complained that the Dreamliner will not offer the same degree of luxury, with First Class disappearing.
The plane change will also almost halve the number of available seats on the daily London-Melbourne route, reducing the total number of daily tickets offered by Qantas between the UK and Australia to the lowest level since the early 1970s.