Qantas' marathon experimental non-stop flight from London to Sydney landed after just over 19 hours in the air and has given the airline greater confidence in new long range services.

The flight, with 62 passengers and crew on board, was part of the airline's Project Sunrise project that could result in scheduled commercial services from Australia's eastern cities to London and New York from 2023.

The flight landed after 19 hours and 19 minutes and was greeted at Qantas' Sydney base by more than 1000 staff and guests who were there to also celebrate the airline's centenary year.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has now been on board two experimental flights - from New York and now from London - and said the feedback he had got suggested there was strong demand for non-stop ultra long range flights.


''I was talking to the frequent flyers on both flights and they extremely positive on it. Saving three hours typically on these flights non-stop is why you can get a decent night's sleep. ,'' he said at Sydney Airport after the latest flight on which he said he got more than seven hours sleep.

''It's given me a lot more confidence that the demand will be there for these sort of flights.''

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Australia's national carrier is not only the world's oldest continually operating airline, but it also started operating to New Zealand in 1940, the same year Air New Zealand's forerunner, Teal, started.

Qantas' non-stop flight from London to Sydney lands. Photo / Grant Bradley
Qantas' non-stop flight from London to Sydney lands. Photo / Grant Bradley

The London-Sydney flight could take up to 20 and a half hours but favourable winds today shortened that for the 17,800km journey.

The Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner usually takes 236 passengers and today's journey with a lightened load doubled as a delivery flight and an opportunity for scientists to study the impact of extremely long duration flying.
One journalist on board, CNN's Richard Quest, said there was serious aviation talk during the flight which was ''not for the faint-hearted.''

Qantas is assessing the commercial viability of Project Sunrise which will require new planes, either the yet-to-fly Boeing 777X or the A350-1000 from rival Airbus. It will make a call on the ultra-long flights late this year. It already flies between Perth and London, a distance of 14,500km, but non-stop routes from eastern cities will allow it to tap into a much bigger market and could appeal to New Zealanders.

Joyce said: ''We could tap into the New Zealand market if you think its a convenient one stop to get to Europe to get through Sydney or Melbourne.''

A marathon journey complete. Photo / Grant Bradley
A marathon journey complete. Photo / Grant Bradley

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas also said Sydney-London flights could be a ''game changer'', especially for South Islanders.

''If you can fly to Sydney and then to London then that's going to be another consideration, particularly if you're coming out of the South Island. Instead of having three flights you only have two.''

Guy Sebastian plays the Qantas song I still call Australia Home as the plane was towed into to the hangar. Photo / Grant Bradley
Guy Sebastian plays the Qantas song I still call Australia Home as the plane was towed into to the hangar. Photo / Grant Bradley

While there were people who ''look sideways'' at a long flights, more people were willing to take a flight that was 18 hours or more simply because they just want to get to the destination with fewer hassles.
Long range non-stop flying pits Qantas against Air New Zealand.

While Qantas is looking to carry Kiwis long distance - if it goes ahead with Project Sunrise - Air New Zealand hopes to carry more Australians to the United States when it starts flying non-stop to New York at the end of next year.

Motion graphic explaining the world's longest flights. Motion Graphic / Nathan Meek

Joyce is continuing to put pressure on the plane makers for the call he hopes to make before the end of the year.

''It's a commercial decision - can we get the right price from Boeing and Airbus, can we get the regulator to give us the tour of duty, what does the product look like and what is the yield premium for it?''

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority would have to extend flying hours for pilots by four hours or more for Project Sunrise flying. Joyce said the airline was still negotiating with pilots over new rules to fly the ultra long range missions.


At a welcome function where singer Guy Sebastian performed and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke, new commemorative coins to celebrate the Qantas centenary were unveiled.

Grant Bradley travelled to Sydney courtesy of Qantas