Qantas has revealed economy seats for their 19-hour nonstop journey from New York to Sydney

Web DeskJune 17, 20234749 min

As Qantas prepares to debut its record-breaking passenger flights connecting Sydney to New York and London directly in 2025, the airline has revealed what economy class would look like on the ultra-long-haul flights.

The design of the cheaper seats has sparked speculation, with many observers questioning if spending at least 19 hours in such close proximity to other passengers is worth the time saved by flying continuously.

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At a press conference in New York on Thursday, the airline stated that the 12 specially modified Airbus A350 planes that would run the routes will provide customers with additional leg room and space to wander around the cabin.

“We said what we wanted to do with this, that it was to overcome the last tyranny of distance: to have an aircraft that could fly anywhere around the world,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told reporters.

Obtaining an aeroplane capable of flying for up to 21 hours with a full manifest of passengers and baggage was part of the issue, according to Joyce. Another priority has been determining the best approach to care for passengers on such a long voyage.

Back in February, the airline showcased its business and first class cabins. At the same time, it stated that when Project Sunrise planes take to the skies in late 2025, they will accommodate 238 passengers rather than the normal 300-plus.

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It stated that the layout would have six first-class seats in a 1-1-1 configuration, 52 business-class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, 40 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, and 140 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The airline stated on Thursday that the economy seats will be an inch longer than regular, providing travellers 33 inches of legroom.

Each seat will also have Bluetooth connectivity and free Wi-Fi, which will aid in binge-watching TV shows on the journey, according to Joyce, who said he gorged on “The White Lotus” on his way over from Australia to the US.

There will also be “wellness zones” in the economy cabin, with TV displays leading passengers through stretching exercises and bars to help them balance.

Passengers will also stay awake for considerably longer at the start of the journey, thanks to “energising food,” lighting, and temperature.

“We believe this is a unique value proposition that we will be able to offer as an airline… “I’m showing people how to have a very healthy trip, how to look after their wellness, how to avoid jet lag, and how to arrive at a destination refreshed,” Joyce added.

The airline has collaborated with sleep researchers from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. The researchers evaluated passengers on three ultra-long-haul test flights conducted by Qantas in 2019 and discovered that food and circumstances could help alleviate jet lag.

“First, we discovered that the duration of self-reported jetlag in the optimized groups is about two days shorter than in the traditional groups,” said Svetlana Postnova, a neurophysics and brain dynamics specialist at the University of Sydney.

“Second, we discovered that alertness in the days following the flight was higher in the optimized group than in the traditional group.”

In addition to examining passengers on test flights, Qantas has been using flight crew data to convince Australian aviation regulators that nonstop routes can be flown safely.

Joyce stated that the reduction in seat numbers was a critical component of the equation.

“This aircraft has a lot less seats, more premium seats, and a lot more space for customers because we believe that’s the level of comfort that’s needed when you’re doing ultra long-haul travel,” Joyce explained.

First class passengers will enjoy an extra-wide bed, a 22-inch wide recliner lounge chair, a full-length wardrobe, a folding dining table large enough for two, and a 32-inch ultra-high-definition TV at the front of the planes.

Joyce joked that first-class pods had “…everything except the dunny (Australian slang for toilet) on board.”

Business class suites will be 42 inches wide, with chairs that recline to form a two-meter bed. A cushioned leather ottoman, a wide mirror, plenty of storage space, and an 18-inch ultra-high-definition touchscreen will also be included.

The Project Sunrise flights are named after high-risk clandestine flights during WWII that saw two sunrises on their journey from Perth to Sri Lanka on their way to London.

During Qantas study flights in 2019, pilots wore brainwave monitors and had urine analysed in the weeks leading up to and following the flights to check melatonin levels, a hormone linked to sleep cycles.

Passengers in the main cabin wore monitoring devices, allowing scientists to analyse how variables such as lighting, food and drink, mobility, sleep patterns, and in-flight entertainment affected their “health, well-being, and body clock.”

One of the testing flights, Flight QF7879, which CNN witnessed firsthand, became the world’s longest commercial airline passenger flight in terms of both distance (17,800 km, or around 11,060 miles) and time in the air (19 hours and 19 minutes).

Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-JFK trip is the world’s longest scheduled passenger flight currently in service, covering 9,536.5 miles.

Due to the headwind, flights from Singapore to JFK take 18 hours and 5 minutes, whereas flights from JFK to Singapore take 18 hours and 40 minutes.

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