Sleep might be exactly what passengers may be craving even more than normal when the first ever non-stop Europe to Australia scheduled flights commence in late March.
Long the ‘holy grail’ of long distance airline travel, the Heathrow to Perth service will be flown by Qantas using B787-9s and will be a flight of approximately 17 hours airborne. That sounds like a lot to most of us (somewhere in the region of 14,500km), though according to Wikipedia Qatar currently have a longer route (Auckland – Doha, 15,500km / 18 hours). Nevertheless, it’s worth reflecting that when the first air routes were pioneered between the UK and Australia, the 1930s Imperial Airways flying boat service took nine days. Even when Qantas first launched the so-called ‘Kangaroo Route’ in 1947, flying a Lockheed Constellation, the journey took four days and involved six re-fueling stops, two overnight stays and 55 hours in the air to transport just 29 passengers, looked after by 11 crew.
In truth, we happen to think that in terms of beauty, it’s difficult to beat the lines of the Constellation – surely one of the most graceful aircraft ever. The 787-9, of course, is a rather different proposition, capable of carrying 236 passengers, with four flight crew for this route and 10 cabin crew in a very efficient manner.
So, given a choice, which aircraft would you rather fly to Australia in? Well, you can call us unromantic if you like, but if we needed to get to Australia in a hurry, the 787-9 would have to edge it. Especially if we could get some sleep on the way.