In our article here we reported that QANTAS had rejected offers from both Boeing and Airbus for aircraft to fly their proposed ‘Project Sunrise’ ultra-long-haul flights from London and New York to Sydney and Melbourne. The test flights were conducted on a 787-9 Dreamliner and from a technical and passenger perspective proved successful.
In August the Chief Executive of QANTAS, Tino La Spina rejected both the ‘best and final offers’ from the manufacturers for the 777-8x and the A350-1000ULR, requesting a better deal on price, guarantees and conditions to ensure viability over the projected lifespan of the aircraft. The Chief Executive, Alan Joyce said that the airline wouldn’t commit if the business case wasn’t sound; and for that to happen, the roles played by manufacturer, regulators, pilots and potential passengers would need to align.
Boeing is reported as the first to revert with an interim offer to QANTAS. Since the pace of the 777-8x development has been delayed by engine difficulties, Boeing is offering as a part-solution the 777-9x. The aircraft can be made available in the required timeframe but is less than ideal for Sunrise. The revised offer also includes the existing 777-200LR, with a reduced capacity of about 270 (rather than 317) to achieve the required range and the 777-9x would be retained as the -8x are delivered, and the -LRs would be returned.
Thai Airways 777-200ER © Thai Airways
Given the series of difficulties experienced by Boeing, it’s fair to assume that the price of the interim solution is very attractive; perhaps an offer QANTAS can’t refuse. We await news from Airbus.
Other ultra-long-haul news comes from a slightly unexpected source; El Al. The Israeli flag-carrier is planning test flights from its base in Tel-Aviv to Melbourne, subject to regulatory approval. The airline has a twelve 787-9 Dreamliners and will supplement these in Q1 of 2020 with four examples of the smaller 787-8, the Dreamliners replacing its venerable 747s, now all retired. The sector is in excess of 8 535 miles (13 736km) and El Al anticipates a flying time of 16 hours 45 minutes.