Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says passengers can look forward to continued falling fares with the new ultra long-haul planes his airline has challenged Boeing and rival Airbus to build.

Speaking at Boeing's Everett plant near Seattle, Joyce said he wanted to be flying to London and New York from Australia's east coast by 2022 and being able to avoid stops would be more economic for his airline.

Boeing is developing the advanced 777X with massive composite wings that fold-up at their tips to allow them to use existing airports and with aerodynamics and new engines that could allow them to fly up to 16,110km.

Artists mock up of a premium cabin in the Boeing 777X.
Artists mock up of a premium cabin in the Boeing 777X.

Joyce said the cost of flying had been falling in real terms for years and this would continue.


''We have seen the benefits of technology passed on to consumers and I think with the advent of this aircraft that's going to be the trend."

Qantas was also keen on flying directly from the eastern states to Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro in the future.

Aircraft burned large amounts of fuel taking off and landing and incur extra airport and handling costs.

''Both Boeing and Airbus say they're up for the challenge - the head of Airbus said it was a bit like the space race a bit like getting to the moon," said Joyce.

Qantas was working with Boeing and supplying data, including weather information for the past decade, to help develop the new aircraft. The shorter range 777-9 is due to go into service with Emirates in 2020 and Boeing says the programme is on track. The longer range 777-8 will follow.

Qantas wishlist for ultra long haul routes

The plane is also on Air New Zealand's radar, along with the Airbus ultra long haul aircraft.

Joyce said neither the new Boeing plane or Airbus A350-900ULR was yet capable of meeting his airline's Project Sunrise goals.


''While the aircraft is close it's not quite there so lets do a challenge both to Airbus and Boeing," he said

Boeing had worked with Qantas in the past to modify aircraft in the past. A 707 was shortened and had military engines fitted to enable it to land in Fiji, the Boeing747SP was also shortened to allow it to land at airports such as Wellington and the Boeing 747-400ER made to fly between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

''We think this challenge is feasible - it allows us to get the aircraft in the next decade that will do something we have always dreamed about and change the game economically for Qantas."

The airline operated a special promotional flight in 1989 using a Jumbo jet from London non-stop to Sydney but it was near-empty.

''We did it back then with no passengers on board - great economics - we could do that today, it's just how do we make the economics work."

The new 777s used much of the technology in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner but the fuselage is largely aluminium rather than carbon fibre. The 9 series could fly just over 14,000 km and carry up to 425 passengers and the 8 series would have 50 fewer passengers but be capable of the greater range.

Joyce, other Qantas executives and technical staff are in Seattle to pick up the airline's first Dreamliner 787-9 which will be used to fly from Perth to London, the longest Dreamliner route flown and the first time Australia had been linked to Europe with regular flights.

The airline is close to announcing new routes out of Brisbane. The first tranche of eight Dreamliners will be delivered over the next 13 months.

The airline's international airline head said linking New Zealand to Perth to enable Kiwis to make the connection to London was being considered. Qantas runs some flights over summer but more regular services were an option.

''We are considering it - we're still working through clearly we want New Zealanders to go over on our services from Perth to London. We've got to find the aircraft time and world around the impact on the whole network," he said.

- Grant Bradley travelled to Seattle courtesy of Qantas and Boeing