Qantas Airways has announced plans to offer the world's longest flight, of 20 hours, between Sydney and London.
The airline wants to offer the 17,038km flight by 2022, should Airbus or Boeing deliver aircraft capable of meeting the distance.
Australia's biggest airline made the announcement while reporting its annual earnings today.
The Qantas Group said net profit in the year to June 30 was A$853 million, or 46 Australian cents, down from A$1.03 billion, or 49.4 Australian cents, in the prior year, which included the gain on sale of the Sydney Domestic Terminal. Underlying profit before tax was A$1.4b versus A$1.5b in the prior year. Qantas said the result was slightly ahead of guidance due to strong domestic performance.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said a challenge has been given to Airbus and Boeing to give their next-generation aircraft currently under development the range to make the Sydney-London non-stop flights possible with a full passenger load.
A direct flight would cut total journey time by up to four hours on Sydney-London and almost three hours on Melbourne-New York, he said.
"We believe advances in technology in the next few years will make Sydney to London direct a possibility and Qantas is well placed to be the airline to do it," he said, adding that any aircraft purchase would have to meet strict financial thresholds.
Qantas Group reported a successful dual brand strategy in New Zealand with a strong network serving business and leisure customers for Jetstar International.
It did not provide any specific New Zealand numbers but did point to "improved New Zealand performance." Within Jetstar International, passenger numbers jumped 8.4 per cent to 6.2 billion while its revenue per kilometres rose 5.2 per cent and its available seat kilometres rose 1.0 per cent. That compares to a group wide lift of 1.9 per cent in passenger numbers while its total available seat kilometers increased by 1.1 per cent and its revenue passenger kilometers rose 1.8 per cent.
The Jetstar Group, which includes Jetstar International, reported underlying earnings before interest and tax of A$417m, down A$35m on the year, but still the second highest in its history, it said.
"Three years ago, we started an ambitious turnaround program to make the Qantas Group strong and profitable. We tackled some difficult structural issues, became a lot more efficient and kept improving customer service. Today's announcements show this plan has well-and-truly paid off," Joyce said.
Group wide revenue fell by 1 per cent A$16b. Net passenger revenue was down 1 per cent, weighed down by competitive pressures in international markets and the ramp up of new routes. Net freight revenue was down 5 percent.
The company declared a final dividend of 7 Australian cents per share, to be paid on Oct. 13 with a record date of Sept. 11. It also announced a new share buyback programme worth up to A$373 million. Once this latest buyback is completed the number of Qantas shares is expected to have been reduced by more than 20 percent since October 2015.
The company also said non-executive Qantas Group employees will receive a bonus of A$2,500.
The ASX-listed stock last traded at A$5.80.