The first non-stop commercial flight from New York to Sydney — carrying 49 passengers and crew and taking 19 hr 16min — was used by Qantas to run a series of experiments and assess the health and well-being of those onboard.
The data from these experiments will be used to shape the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas’ ultra-long-haul flights in future, including Project Sunrise — the airline’s plan to operate regular non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.
The tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness to exercise classes for passengers.
Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jet-lag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas.
Arriving in Sydney, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce (www.qantas.com
) said: “This is a really significant first for aviation.
“Hopefully, it is a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.
"We know that ultra-long-haul flights pose some extra challenges.
“The research we are doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and well-being along the way.
"Night flights usually start with dinner and then ‘lights off’.
“For this flight, we started with lunch and kept the lights on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at our destination.
“It means that you start reducing the jet lag straight away.”
“What is already clear is how much time you can save. Our regular one-stop New York to Sydney service took off 3hr before our direct flight, but we arrived a few minutes ahead of it, so we saved a significant amount of total travel time by not having to stop.”
Two more research flights are planned as part of the Project Sunrise evaluations — London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December.
Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to Qantas that are capable of operating Project Sunrise flights with a viable commercial payload.