Qantas Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Joyce said the airline could purchase the Airbus A350-1000s, needed to operate Project Sunrise flights, as soon as this year.
On January 13, 2021, Joyce spoke at the Reuters Next conference and said he was optimistic about Qantas revisiting plans for Project Sunrise. Currently, the airline is waiting for the international markets to recover, but by the end of 2021, the ultra-long-haul services could come back on the table. The company’s CEO also expects that direct flights between Australia and Europe or the United States would become more appealing in the post-COVID world.
“People in the post-COVID world will want to fly direct, which I think makes the Project Sunrise business case even better than it was pre-COVID,” said Joyce. “At the end of 2021, we can revisit [Project Sunrise] and look at what’s the appropriate time.”
Project Sunrise was first announced by Qantas in August 2017 and was due to take off in 2023. The project would be centered around regular direct long-haul services, such as Sydney-London, Brisbane-Paris, and Melbourne-New York.
Both the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777X-8 were candidates to operate the 18 to 20 hour non-stop routes. Eventually, Qantas chose the Airbus A350-1000, equipped with extra fuel tanks. The airline plans to order up to 12 A350s.
However, Qantas is “not going to put an order in until we see the international market recovering,” Joyce outlined.
Currently, with international travel restrictions in place, the carrier stopped the majority of its international operations and grounded most of its wide-body fleet, including 12 A380s and several of its Boeing 787-9s. Qantas does not expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.