From London to Sydney will be the longest passenger flight in the world, but who will pay for this trip?

Qantas has garnered absurd amounts of publicity about its plans for non-stop flights between London Heathrow and Sydney, and also between Australia’s largest city and New York.

In 2019, as you may recall, the Australian airline launched so-called test flights from London and New York to Sydney to see how travelers reacted to ultra-long-haul flights.

This stunt repeated a trick first performed by Qantas in the 1980s when the company flew a Boeing 747 non-stop from Heathrow to Sydney. The problem for decades: none of these flights carried paying passengers or cargo.

The Australian airline invited Airbus and Boeing to a “beauty pageant” to demonstrate how they could rebuild a large twin-engine to fly 11,000 miles non-stop with a full payload.

A customized Airbus A350 was confirmed as the winning bid this week. The services are scheduled to begin in late 2025 and are expected to last more than 19 hours.

When the non-stop flight finally begins, part of the trick is to keep passenger numbers down: Seating is just 238 on a plane that could legally carry twice that number.

So who will be on board this exclusive jet?

Well, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce expects it to fill up from scratch, beginning with the six “luxurious first-class suites with a separate bed, a recliner and a personal closet.”

Sounds pretty much like a budget hotel, although this one will travel halfway around the world at 800 km/h.

Then there are the 56 business-class suites, geared toward executives who just want to go to the City of London or Wall Street, sign a deal, and head home. The Qantas express will work fine for them.

I expect the 40-seat premium economy will be occupied by well-heeled leisure travelers who will choose it over the Gulf in lieu of a discounted business class deal. Which leaves just 140 economy seats for you and me in the back.

Or is it? I think residents will be very different from the usual mix of holidaymakers and family visitors of all ages traveling between London and Sydney.

The coronavirus pandemic has actually increased the demand for a non-stop service. Before Covid (and the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine that has closed much of the airspace), the most direct route between Heathrow and Sydney was via Hong Kong – still taboo.

The heaviest traffic between the UK and Australia, connected in Dubai – which was suddenly closed in March 2020, ending homeward plans for tens of thousands of travellers.

Some people will be willing to pay a hefty premium to get rid of all the stops and the uncertainty they bring. I believe these seats sell about 50 percent more than a one-stop fare on a quality airline.

They are joined by people paying for the privilege of not having to change trains in the middle of the night in a dusty desert location.

That will help Qantas pay its huge fuel bill – and the promised carbon offset.

The damage done by the ultimate ultra-long-distance flight is huge compared to planes stopping once or twice en route due to the amount of fuel that is simply burned to carry fuel for later in the journey.

The rest of us will continue to break the journey at one of the many enticing stops en route to the other side of the world.

Better for the planet (or at least a little less harmful), better for us.

© From London to Sydney will be the longest passenger flight in the world, but who will pay for this trip?

Fry Electronics Team

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