Qantas staff were no doubt cracking out the champagne over the weekend after the airline’s first non-stop commercial flight from New York to Sydney landed in record time.
The flight, which was carrying 49 passengers and crew, landed in a record 19 hours and 16 minutes.
It was used to run a series of experiments to assess health and well-being onboard ultra long haul flights, producing data to be used in shaping the crew rostering and customer service of the airlines longer flights in the future.
Tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers.
Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jetlag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas.
“This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said upon arriving in Sydney.
“We know ultra long haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing 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 you start reducing the jetlag straight away.
“What’s already clear is how much time you can save. Our regular, one-stop New York to Sydney service (QF12) took off three hours before our direct flight but we arrived a few minutes ahead of it, meaning 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. Emissions from all research flights will be fully offset.
A decision on Project Sunrise is expected by the end of the year.
Featured image credit: James D Morgan/Qantas.