MIAMI — At last, Qantas will connect continental Europe with the land down under thanks to the arrival of the 787-9 to its fleet. This morning, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce flew to Western Australia to make the official announcement.
The inaugural flight will launch in March 2018, and will take 17 hours to operate the approximately 9,009 mile westbound route (depending on winds). This will also become the Dreamliner’s longest route in the world, overtaking United Airlines Flight 1, which started on June 1 between San Francisco and Singapore.
Qantas unveiled its 787-9 seat configuration in June, featuring 236 seats spread among three cabins (Business, Premium Economy and Economy). There will be 42 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, allowing for all window or direct aisle access and privacy dividers in the middle section. Premium Economy will seat 28 customers in a 2-3-2 layout, while Economy will seat 166 passengers in a 3-3-3 layout.
It is unclear if Qantas will alter the configuration for the 787-9 used to operate its Perth to London Heathrow flights to allow for less seat density given that is an ultra-long haul flight.
Perth Airport is the international gateway to Western Australia, and supports a multitude of long-haul services to Asian, Middle Eastern and some African markets. While Qantas has a sizable domestic operation from Perth, it only supports two international long-haul flights to Singapore and Auckland. Instead, Qantas relies on its revenue-sharing partnership with Emirates to support long-haul flights from Perth to Europe and beyond, connecting over Dubai.
Without a sizable international presence at Perth, one of the major sticking points for Qantas has been connecting passengers from its domestic terminals to the international terminal. Perth has three domestic terminals (Terminals 2, 3 and 4) and one International terminal (Terminal 1). All of Qantas domestic flights, including QantasLink regional and budget subsidiary Jetstar, operate out of Terminals 3 and 4.
Since the new Perth – London Heathrow route will carry large volumes of connecting traffic from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and others around the Continent, Qantas announced that it will upgrade Terminals 3 and 4 to be able to accommodate international flights. As such, the Singapore, Auckland and London Heathrow flights will all move to Terminals 3-4 to allow for smother connections. The Western Australian government is planning to contribute $14 million towards the cost of reconfiguring Terminal 3.
As of now, Qantas’ Perth to London Heathrow flight will rank #3 in terms of the world’s longest flights, by distance. As it stands today, Air India currently holds the designation with its nonstop Delhi to San Francisco flight, which travels 8,159 nautical miles on the Eastbound routing from Delhi, over the Pacific. Number 2 is Emirates’ Auckland to Dubai flight at 7,668 nautical miles, which operates on a 777-200LR (although it will up-gauge to an A380 in the fall). This will be overtaken by Qatar Airways’ nonstop flight from Auckland to Doha starting February 5, 2017, also on a Boeing 777-200LR.