Qantas chooses the Airbus A350-1000 over Boeing’s 777X for non-stop flights from New York and London to Sydney, citing the strong reliability record of its Rolls-Royce engines

  •  The airline has said it will work with Airbus to prepare orders for up to 12 aircraft
  •  A final decision on the launch of the non-stop routes will be made in March
  • The launch of the routes would link Airbus to a major milestone in aviation

Qantas has revealed that it will use the Airbus A350-1000 and not the Boeing 777X if it goes ahead with launching non-stop flights from New York and London to Sydney.

The decision comes after the airline carried out two research flights using ‘human guinea pigs’ to test the impact of the 19-hour ‘Project Sunrise’ routes on passengers and crew.

The first test flight operated between New York and Sydney non-stop in October carrying 49 passengers and crew. 

The Airbus A350-1000 pictured during a flying display at the Paris Air Show 2019


The London to Sydney Project Sunrise research flight operated almost 100 years to the day that the first ever flight from the UK to Australia took off from Hounslow Heath (near today’s Heathrow Airport) on November 12, 1919. It landed in Darwin 28 days later on December 10, 1919. 

It cut around three hours off the typical gate-to-gate travel time of current one-stop flights.

The second flight ran from London Heathrow to Sydney in November carrying a similar number of people.

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) were on board both flights, collecting data concerning the health and well being of passengers and crew during the flight.

A third research flight will take place next Tuesday, running from New York to Sydney again, so further tests can be conducted.

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (pictured) was used to run the non-stop test flights from both New York and London to Sydney

Both test flights carried around 50 passengers and crew on board including a research team measuring the impact of the 19-hour flights on people’s health and well being

The Airbus A350-1000 has been chosen despite Qantas’s research flights being carried out on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. 

In selecting the most suitable aircraft for the routes, Qantas said it had considered the Boeing 777X but had opted for the Airbus A350-1000 because of the ‘strong reliability record’ of its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

No official orders have been placed yet, but Qantas has said it will ‘work closely with Airbus to prepare contract terms for up to 12 aircraft’ ahead of a final decision by the Qantas Board on whether the non-stop flights will go ahead.

Qantas has said that this decision should take place in March. 

The path flown by Qantas’s non-stop flight from London to New York

 ‘Between the research flights and what we’ve learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like New York and London to the east coast of Australia,’ Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.

‘The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience.’ 

Qantas’s decision is a major victory for Airbus. The launch of the non-stop routes would link its name to a major milestone in aviation history for all time.

Pictured is the Airbus A350-1000 as it would look in Qantas’s livery. A decision on whether the non-stop routes will launch is expected in March

Mr Joyce said more details relating to the non-stop flights were still to be settled, including confirming a business plan which would ensure the routes were financially viable, and agreeing contractual terms for pilots, who would be paid more to fly the two longest passenger routes in the world.

‘We’ve done a lot of work on the economics and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots,’ Mr Joyce said.

‘We’re offering promotions and an increase in pay but we’re asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs.

‘Airbus has given us an extra month to lock in an aircraft order without impacting our planned start date, which means we can spend more time on hopefully reaching a deal with our pilots.’



The world’s first flight from London to Australia touches down in Darwin. It took 28 days. Hudson Fysh, one of the men who would go on to found Qantas was first to meet it – he’d just built the airfield, and with Paul McGinness had plotted an air route across Queensland and the Northern Territory to get there. In this moment, they recognised the potential to link up outback towns in short hops, and distant continents in long-haul leaps. Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services was born one year later.


With a new name to reflect its overseas ambitions, Qantas Empire Airways made its first international flight. In February, a Qantas four-engine de Havilland DH86 flew airmail to Singapore, with Britain’s Imperial Airways taking it onto London. By April, passengers were on board, too. These were among the earliest codeshare arrangements. One leg over Mussolini’s Italy had to be completed by train. Still, it was faster than the six-week voyage by boat.


Flying boats joined the Qantas fleet. The Dreamliners of their day, they represented a new era of space, style and comfort, with in-flight meals and reclining seats. They made their inaugural flight from Sydney in July, taking off from the international ‘airport’ in Sydney Harbour’s Rose Bay and again linking arms with Imperial Airways in Singapore. It was the pinnacle of an incredible decade of progress – but world war loomed.


During the Second World War, mail couldn’t be delivered across the Mediterranean. It was instead sent from London to South Africa by sea, and then flown to Sydney on an unlikely flight path that followed the coastline of the Indian Ocean around in a giant semi-circle, making more than 40 stops along the way. It was called the Horseshoe Route. Qantas operated the 11-stop leg between Singapore and Sydney, and then onto Auckland.


Singapore was the critical hub for all Australia-UK operations. When it fell in 1942, Qantas was forced to improvise – attempting a new route to bridge the communications gap to Britain. It was, and remains, the longest passenger flight by elapsed time in aviation history. From 1943, 30-hour flights spanned the Indian Ocean between Perth and Colombo in today’s Sri Lanka. Pilots had to operate in total radio silence, using celestial navigation to find their way. Passengers spent so long in the air that they saw the sun rise twice and were presented with a certificate upon landing inducting them into the Rare and Secret Order of the Double Sunrise. Hundreds of these flights took place over two years. Every one of them landed without incident.


Qantas was operating larger Liberator aircraft on its Indian Ocean route by the war’s end, and for the first time, the flying kangaroo emblem joined passengers and crew on their journey. The Kangaroo Service was born – but flights still had to meet their British partners half-way along the journey at Karachi to hand over passengers for the final legs to London. To fly higher and further, the airline sorely needed an even larger aircraft with a pressurised cabin.


The Qantas ‘Connie’, which operated the first service from Sydney all the way to London. It reduced the journey time from 10 days to 58 hours

The American-built Lockheed Constellation was a spectacular and revolutionary long-range aircraft. When Qantas took delivery of the ‘Connie’ in 1947, the Kangaroo Route to London could finally be made whole. The newly-nationalised airline operated the first service from Sydney all the way to London in December. A journey that had taken almost ten days on a flying boat in 1938 was now reduced to 58 flying hours.


The sleeker Super Constellation, which joined the fleet in 1954, began operating Qantas’s first round-the-world service. In 1958, two ‘Super Connies’ departed Sydney at the same time. One headed westbound along the Kangaroo Route and one headed the other direction over the Pacific. They both passed through London on their opposite paths back home.


Everything changed when the Boeing 707 passenger jet joined the Qantas fleet. Qantas was the first non-US airline to take delivery of this revolutionary aircraft, which halved travel times to distant continents and ushered in the modern era of aviation. 

Everything changed when the Boeing 707 passenger jet joined the Qantas fleet

When the Qantas 707 began flying the Kangaroo Route on October 27, it marked the first commercial jet service between England and Australia.


Qantas took delivery of its first Boeing 747 jumbo jets and started flying them to London in November. The instantly recognisable aircraft transformed the economics of flying and put overseas travel within reach of all Australians for the first time. By the end of the decade, Qantas was the only airline in the world with a fleet that consisted entirely of Boeing 747s.


A brand new Qantas Boeing 747-400, VH-OJA flew non-stop from London to Sydney, breaking the record for the world’s flight by a commercial aircraft. The new jumbo fleet was named Longreach – a nod to past origins and vast distances – and OJA ran on a special, high-density fuel. Passengers and crew spent 20 hours and nine minutes in the air.


Qantas began the first-ever non-stop scheduled passenger service between Australia and the United Kingdom, departing Perth for Heathrow in the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The service finally connected the last two populated continents on earth not linked by a single regular flight, and it instantly became the most popular route on Qantas’s entire network.


Replicating the record-breaking journey aboard the jumbo jet 30 years earlier, a Qantas Dreamliner flew non-stop from London to Sydney – only in less time and with almost half the fuel.


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