First class on the Qantas A350-1000 ultra long range.

Courtesy: Qantas

Long flights are coming back.

It’s one of the clearest signs yet that airlines are betting the recovery in international travel is doomed the Covid pandemicwill continue to grow.

On Wednesday, Qantas launched service between New York and Sydney with a stop in Auckland, New Zealand Boeing 787 Dreamliners, instead of the previous stop in Los Angeles. But the Australian carrier is focusing on even longer routes: Nonstop flights from Sydney to New York and London. Flights could reach around 20 hours, which is enough time to watch most of the Star Wars Skywalker Saga.

“You don’t have to take your bags off, you don’t have to change, you don’t have a chance to make a bad connection,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told CNBC on Thursday at a launch event for the airline’s new cabins in New York. . The airline estimates the new routes could cut travel times by more than three hours compared to flights with stops at other airports.

It has been Qantas for eight years collaboration with sleep scientists who studied passengers’ moods, sleep patterns and food intake in the hope of reducing the effects of jet lag on super-long flights, with test runs in 2019. They found that delaying meals and keeping passengers awake longer through cabin lighting helped combat the effects of jet lag, when it reaches its destination.

Qantas plans to operate the new nonstop on the Airbus A350-1000 ultra-long-haul aircraft as early as late 2025. It will seat 238 passengers, far fewer than the more than 350 passengers that can fit in the standard versions of the planes. Qantas has reduced the number of people on board to accommodate more spacious seats and to account for the aircraft’s weight and range.

The airline ordered 12 special aircraft.

“Qantas is the only airline that wants to do this. Because we are so far from Australia that we can justify at least 12 [of these] plane,” Joyce said.

The planes will be equipped with six enclosed First Class suites that include a table for two, a reclining chair, a 32-inch touch screen TV and a 2-meter (more than 6.5 feet) platform. It will also have 52 flat-bed business class suites and 40 premium economy seats and 140 economy class seats.

They will also have what Qantas calls a “Comfort Zone”, which has handles for stretching, an on-screen exercise guide and refreshments. Wi-Fi will be free, Qantas said.

Joyce said the airline’s international capacity is back to 85% of pre-pandemic levels and expects it to be fully restored next March.

Passengers on board QF7879 take exercise lessons during a non-stop flight from London to Sydney on November 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

James D. Morgan | Getty Images

Although ultra-long-distance flights are technically possible thanks to more efficient engines and aircraft, they face other challenges.

“There’s technical feasibility and then there’s economic feasibility,” said Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst and former airline executive.

Singapore Airlines, for example, launched a nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore in 2004 that took about 18 hours (times vary based on wind and other factors), a bet on business travel and that customers between the two destinations will apply to avoid connecting at another airport. In 2008, it offered reconfigured cabins that contained only 100 business class seats on the A340-500.

However, the flight ceased in 2013 when the carrier got rid of a four-engine plane that was guzzling fuel. It relaunched in 2018 with a mix of business class and premium economy seats, suspended during the pandemic and relaunched last year.

In November 2020, the carrier introduced what is currently the world’s longest flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Singapore.

Here’s a look at the world’s longest flights by distance according to airline OAG:

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