Passengers Wanted for $12,000 Nonstop Flight – Press Enterprise

by Angus Whitley | Bloomberg

Wanted: Hundreds of people to sit on a plane for 20 hours. You must be willing to pay a lot of money. Claustrophobics need not apply.

Conceived before the Covid crisis, Qantas Airways Ltd.’s plan to operate the world’s longest non-stop commercial flights from southeastern Australia to New York and London is being resurrected in a much-changed aviation landscape, with global airlines reeling because of the pandemic and people be careful with travel.

Qantas, which lost more than $15bn in revenue due to virus-related border restrictions, is banking on passengers willing to pay a premium to avoid stopovers and finish mammoth journeys in one fell swoop.

But some regular travelers balk at potentially paying 30% more for a direct flight compared to a two-way trip. While fares may differ when flights begin, a nonstop round-trip business class ticket between Sydney and New York could cost more than $12,000, enough to buy a compact car, according to flights. October listed in Kayak for the same route with a stopover in Los Angeles.

And not everyone is prepared to spend almost an entire day and night on a plane, especially in economy class. “Project Dawn” flights, which Qantas now plans to start in 2025 after the pandemic delayed its launch to 2023, will place unprecedented physical, mental and financial demands on passengers.

“There would be few circumstances where I would be willing to pay a hefty premium for a little bit shorter travel time,” said Nigel Lake, chief executive of Pottinger Co., a corporate advisory firm with operations between New York and Sydney.

Before Covid, Lake was a regular on Qantas flights calling at Los Angeles, making him a strong candidate for the new ultra-long-haul service. But he plans to stick with two flights to and from Sydney so he can shower in the airport lounge or take a walk before the second leg.

Qantas, which lost more than $15bn in revenue due to virus-related border restrictions, is banking on passengers willing to pay a premium to avoid stopovers and finish mammoth journeys in one fell swoop. (File photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

A new age

Now that Australia has almost fully reopened, Qantas needs to win over travelers who for decades have interrupted their trips to the UK and parts of the US with stops in California, Texas, Southeast Asia or the Middle East.

Success could spawn a new network of nonstop services around the world. Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said the Sydney-based airline is considering flying direct to Paris, Chicago and Rio de Janeiro. The flights could ultimately add up to A$641 million to Qantas’ market value, according to Jarden Research.

The services would also pose a direct threat to travel hubs like Dubai and Singapore, which have made a name for themselves by processing arriving passengers and guiding them to connecting flights.

Qantas is betting big that this is the future of long-haul flying, committing this month to buy 12 customized Airbus SE A350 jets to fly the extra-long routes. The fleet could cost up to 3.64 billion Australian dollars, according to Jarden analyst Jakob Cakarnis. He had expected Qantas to initially order just five or six planes.

Qantas has said that 41% of the 238 seats on the new A350 would be in first, business and premium economy, a clear sign of its target market.

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