QANTAS Project Sunrise Update

QANTAS has announced a preference for Airbus to provide aircraft for its proposed ‘Project Sunrise’ routes from Sydney to London and New York.

In a press release the carrier has said; ‘After detailed evaluation of the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, Qantas has selected the A350-1000 as the preferred aircraft if Sunrise proceeds.’ They stress that no firm order has been placed but sufficient to say that QANTAS and Airbus are collaborating on the nature of a possible contract for 12 aircraft.

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A350-1000 XWB   ©Reuters

In order to perform the mammoth flights the A350 will require an additional fuel tank and a small increase in maximum take-off weight. The Australian airline continues gathering performance and passenger data with its test flights using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The 787 was not under consideration, not having the range for the nonstop flights with an economic load.

The QANTAS Board’s final decision to proceed is expected to be made in March 2020 and if given, the aircraft are expected to be delivered in the first half of 2023 shortly before the service is inaugurated.  However, other issues will need to be resolved before the board’s decision, including regulatory approval form the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and successfully concluding negotiations with the pilots’ union AIPA.

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Given that the A350-1000 has two years of service with excellent reliability and the 777x has yet to commence approval flights—issues with the GE9x turbine blades—the preference is not surprising. Boeing is consumed with bringing the 737-MAX back into service, delaying development of other products.

This preference represents another success for Airbus over Boeing in 2019. In itself this isn’t a massive financial blow for the American manufacturer but does add to their reputational woes and conversely further enhances the European’s prestige.

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