Australia's Qantas Airways picked Airbus over Boeing as the preferred supplier for jets capable of the world's longest commercial flights from Sydney to London, dealing the United States planemaker its latest setback this year. The airline has not yet put in an order for the aircraft, but says it is working with Airbus to prepare a contract for 12 Rolls Royce Trent XWB-powered A350s.
Qantas Airways Ltd picked Airbus SE to provide ultra long-range planes for planned direct services that will stretch halfway around the world, a blow to Boeing Co. after a two-year competition to land the deal.
On Friday, the airline said the Airbus jet had beaten the Boeing 777X-8 as the preferred aircraft for its so-called "Sunrise Project" flights, which will be the airline's longest commercial air routes.
QANTAS Group CEO, Alan Joyce states "between the research flights and what we've learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like NY and London to the east coast of Australia".
The proposed version of the aircraft will feature additional fuel tanks over the standard A350-1000 and also have an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW).
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has stated that the national carrier's support for Project Sunrise is stronger than ever, after the recent research flights conducted on Qantas Boeing 787-9s. A final decision on an order is expected in March, the airline said.
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However, this doesn't necessarily mean that Qantas has ordered the aircraft and will move ahead with the project.
Pilot negotiationsAccording to the announcement "Industrial negotiations with representatives for Qantas pilots, AIPA, are continuing".
The last of the three "Project Sunrise" research flights will take place on December 17 from NY to Sydney. According to QANTAS CASA sees no obstacles in granting regulatory approval.
Critics of the program claim that it is one large PR stunt, citing that ultra-long-haul flights already operate with durations of just over 17 hours.
Design of the customer experience for flights up to 21 hours continues, including new cabins across First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy.
"We've done a lot of work on the economics and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots", he said. "We're offering promotions and an increase in pay but we're asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs".