Qantas announced today that it will start non-stop flights between Perth (PER) and London (LHR) from March 2018. Tickets for the 17 hour flight will go on sale in April 2017.
This won’t be the first time that Qantas has flown direct between Europe and Australia. In 1989, a Qantas 747-400 flew just over 20 hours nonstop from London to Sydney. That same plane took it’s final flight in 2015 to it’s final resting place at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society. In 2015, Qantas also operated a one-off charter flight from Perth to Istanbul to take Australians to the Centenary of Anzac at Gallipoli.
The full media release can be found here.
Initial public reaction
I’ve spent a bit of time today monitoring the comments from the general public on social media. Here are a couple of remarks that seem to summarise the overriding feeling towards the route.
“I look forward to a stop over. Direct would simply be too long in a plane. Glad it’s becoming an option though”
“If I’m coming from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, I’m not sure it will work out cheaper. A one way airfare to Perth is $300, so add an extra $600 to the trip”
The pricing concern is certainly valid. If the route is priced at a premium, when you add the additional positioning flights to/from Perth, it becomes an expensive adventure. Why not just fly to Asia and spend the saved money on a night exploring the city before continuing the journey?
As far as the length of the flight, we already have a 15.5 hour flight from Sydney to Dallas. Is a couple of more hours really such a deal breaker? Everybody is different but I find in Economy I would rather just push through a long flight and get to my destination as soon as possible. And, if you’re flying in business class, you can enjoy the experience for a few hours longer.
The flight will be able to carry up to 236 passengers. There will be no first class on offer, with Qantas limiting the service to Business, Premium Economy and Economy.
Business – 42 Seats in a 1-2-1 design
The business class seat is a slightly updated version of the A330 Business Suites that Qantas currently feature. It really is a great suite and I hope that Qantas look to replace the MK Skybed II on their existing long haul aircraft’s with it as well.
They have fixed a design flaw, which now allows the divider between the middle pair of seats to be lowered if you wish to talk to your seatmate.
Premium Economy – 28 Seats in a 2-3-2 design
The premium economy seat mock up hasn’t been released yet, with the Qantas Dreamliner website also absent of any pictures.
At this point, all we know is that it is in a 2-3-2 formation and designed by Thompson Aero. The premium economy seat has been described as revolutionary. Though, I feel the lack of direct details (instead replaced with buzzwords) mean the seat is still in the design and testing phase.
Interestingly, Thompson Aero have a Cozy Suite premium economy product featured on their website.
Predominately featured in a 8 or 9 abreast set up, at first sight it doesn’t quite fit with the 7 abreast that Qantas are promoting. However when you take a closer look at the seat map, you can see a 2-3-2 cabin option. This features the Cozy Suite Plus – a slightly larger seat option.
US airline, Delta, was looking to install this the Cozy Suite as an Economy product by 2010 but it never saw the light of day. Back then, the design was encountering significant certification issues.
Qantas could be working through these same issues right now. Or maybe they do have a completely new concept in mind.
Economy – 166 Seats in a 3-3-3 design
Economy is economy. You can’t really dress it up to be more than it is. However the seats will feature an extra inch of legroom compared to the airline’s A380’s and inbuilt iPad holders.
The airport experience
The new flight will operate through Qantas’ existing domestic terminals (T3/4), which will be upgraded to accommodate international flights. Qantas currently has international flights from Perth to Singapore and Auckland and these flights will also move to the same terminal. Qantas will move its operations to an expanded Terminal 1 at Perth Airport by 2025, pending a commercial agreement.
WA Premier Colin Barnett said the state would contribute $14 million for capital works at the airport, to be used for the construction of quarantine and Australian Border Force infrastructure.
What will the Dreamliner be doing between its delivery in October 2017 and first Perth – London Flight in March 2018?
Although it hasn’t been announced, I’d say we might see it pop up on some Sydney/Melbourne to Perth flights to familiarise the crew. From there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on some existing 747-400 routes that are routinely using non-refurbished planes such as to Tokyo Haneda or Hong Kong.
Which travellers will benefit the most?
- West Coast residents who would otherwise be forced to travel to Adelaide or the East Coast to Europe;
- Those who want to stick with an Australian airline and don’t want to transit through the Middle East; and
- Miles & Points travellers – there will likely be more award space available, though this may not happen straight away.
Is it viable long term?
2018 is the year for launching (or relaunching) extra longhaul flights. Singapore Airlines will restart their nonstop Singapore – New York and Singapore to Los Angeles flights also.
Ultimately, I think that the pricing on this route will have to be ultra competitive compared to the existing flights that stop in Asia or the Middle East. The ‘joke’ for East Coast Australian’s is that it is cheaper to fly to New Zealand, Fiji and Southeast Asia than it is to Perth. I think the novelty of the nonstop Australia – United Kingdom flight will be enough to initially fulfill demand. However as time goes on, it will be interesting to see what happens.
For those visiting Australia, Sydney is on the”must see” list. If this flight is marketed to the UK & Europe as a nonstop flight to Australia, the popularity of the route will be off the charts. I just hope it doesn’t become a larger scale issue like the naming of Brisbane West Wellcamp airport, where passengers think they are on their way to a city they no where near!
It will take a lot of work by WA tourism to encourage tourists to stay and visit before continuing onto the east coast.
Will you be making use of the nonstop Perth to London flight?