Qantas is stepping up in its goal to launch the first direct flights between Sydney and New York by announcing a test flight for the epic, 19-hour route.

The carrier will also carry out a test flight of its proposed non-stop Sydney to London flight, which is also expected to take about 19 hours — two hours longer than its Perth-London route launched last year.

The proposed Sydney-New York and Sydney-London routes are part of Qantas' ambitious long-haul project Operation Sunrise, which plans to provide non-stop air links between Australia's east coast and New York and London.

'Not a foregone conclusion': Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the ultra-long routes have still to be proven. Photo / Getty Images
'Not a foregone conclusion': Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the ultra-long routes have still to be proven. Photo / Getty Images

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said this morning a final word on whether the ultra-long range flights from Sydney to New York and London would go ahead was due by the end of this year.


"There is plenty of enthusiasm for Sunrise but I have to say it is not a foregone conclusion," Mr Joyce said as the airline delivered its quarterly results in Sydney.

"This is ultimately a business decision and economics have to stack up. And if they don't, we won't do it."

But Qantas will press ahead with testing for the groundbreaking flights, which will be carried out over three months from October.

The test flights will use new, fully fitted-out Boeing 787-9s that will carry about 40 people each — mostly crew, as no tickets will be sold for the test flights.

A major focus will be how people on-board are coping with the marathon journeys and its impact on their bodies.

Scientists and medical experts from Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment to assess the flight's impact on health, wellbeing and body clocks.

Researchers from Monash University will study pilots' levels of melatonin — the hormone that regulates the wake-sleep cycle — before, during and after the flights.

Pilots will also wear an electroencephalogram device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness, which will help establish work and rest schedules for crew on long-haul routes.

Qantas already flies a Boeing 787 Dreamliner service between Perth and London. Photo / Getty Images
Qantas already flies a Boeing 787 Dreamliner service between Perth and London. Photo / Getty Images

"Ultra-long-haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them," Mr Joyce said.

"For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it's about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their downtime on these flights.

"Flying non-stop from the east coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we're determined to do all the groundwork to get this right.

"No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before, and we'll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, in-flight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise."

No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York and Australia. Qantas' trial will be the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Mr Joyce threw down the challenge to jet makers to build an aircraft capable of the epic journeys for Operation Sunrise. If the project goes ahead, it's expected to take passengers to the skies in 2022.

World's Longest Flights

1. Newark to Singapore, Singapore Airlines:

15,344km, up to 18 hours 45 mins

2. Auckland to Doha, Qatar Airways: 14,535km, up to 18 hours 20 mins

3. Perth to London, Qantas: 14,499km, 17 hours 20 mins

4. Auckland to Dubai, Emirates: 14,200km, up to 17 hours 15 mins

5. Los Angeles to Singapore, Singapore Airlines: 14,113km, up to 17 hours 50 mins

6. Houston to Sydney, United Airlines: 13,834km, 17 hours 30 mins

7. Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney, Qantas: 13,804km, up to 15 hours 5 mins

8. New York to Manila, Philippine Airlines: 13,712km, 16 hours 30 mins

9. San Francisco to Singapore, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines: 13,593km, up to 17 hours 35 mins

10. Johannesburg to Atlanta, Delta Air Lines: 13,581km, up to 16 hours 55 mins.