Today saw the official approval of Qantas’ long-awaited Project Sunrise, something that was postponed a few years due to COVID. With the announcement that the airline will order 12 A350-1000 aircraft capable of flying from Sydney direct to London and New York, which will see the longest and furthest flights in the world.

But that poses a challenge for any carrier and the cabin environment which even at the current longest flights – 16 hours – is pushing the limits of passenger comfort. That’s why the airline is proudly announcing one of the lightest passenger loads on their A350s, as well as new First Class, New Business Class and even wellness areas to make the journey as comfortable as possible.

When it comes to comfort, there’s a huge emphasis on the premium cabins on the aircraft, featuring no more than 238 seats, which is impressive, considering many A350’s feature circa 300+ seats. How come? Well, apart from the 6 First Class super suites at the front of the plane, there’s a further 52 business class suites which appear similar to the current business class product, followed by 5 rows of Premium economy in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration, making for 140 seats in economy class, however each with 33″ of seat pitch.

The aircraft is a brave move, and will rely on most likely higher ticket prices to be economically viable. The seat density is just as much about pushing the aircraft to the limits of its range, as it is about giving passengers comfort on such a long flight. From the visuals it’s easy to see there are plenty of wellness areas, where passengers will be encouraged to stretch their legs or socialise, and while details are scant, it appears there will be walk-up bars in economy, and a more complex central hub in the heart of the premium section for Business and First Class.

First Class is also a huge step up for Qantas, which in previous incarnations had opted for a more open design, with less of an emphasis on privacy, but on personal space. Now with the A350, perhaps in a move to compete with the enclosed-space trend in new First Class products, the suite is a cocoon, featuring both a bed and a separate seat, like Etihad or Lufthansa have done with their flagship products. The seat is enclosed with a high wall and door, and plenty of personal storage space.

As TheDesignAir gets more details on the A350 passenger experience in other cabins, we’ll be one of the first to share with you.

“Throughout our history, the aircraft we’ve flown have defined the era we’re in. The 707 introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel and the A380 brought a completely new level of comfort. The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance. As you’d expect, the cabin is being specially designed for maximum comfort in all classes for long-haul flying,” states Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

The A350 is just one part of a much larger aircraft order by Qantas, which will be delivered in 2025. Topping up its existing order, there are new firm orders for 20 A321XLR and 20 A220-300 for Project Winton to start renewal of Qantas’ narrow body fleet as its fleet of 95 Boeing 737 and Boeing 717 aircraft retire. Deliveries of A220s to start late calendar 2023; A321XLRs deliveries to start a year later in late calendar 2024. A further 94 purchase right options spread across A320 and A220 families, with significant flexibility on delivery timing (over 10-plus years) and aircraft type.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

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