On March 24, history will be made when the first scheduled nonstop flight from Australia to Europe will begin. In late 2016, Qantas announced that it was commencing nonstop flights from Perth, Australia to London Heathrow in early 2018. The day has finally arrived at the inaugural Qantas Flight 9 will leave Perth, Western Australia on Saturday, March 24 at 6:50 PM, local time, and arrive into London Heathrow the following morning at 5:10 AM. The flight will be offered on Qantas’ new 787-9 Dreamliners and will be the longest 787 route in the world.
The flight will last approximately 17 hours and 20 minutes on the westbound sector from Perth to LHR, outlasting Qantas’ current longest flight, QF 8, which flies daily from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sydney on an Airbus A380-800 by about 5 minutes of flight time. The entire routing for QF9, and the return flight, QF10, theoretically originates and terminates in Melbourne, Australia.
Changes to the Emirates-Qantas Partnership Model: from Kangaroo to Falcon, now Back to the Kangaroo
Currently, Qantas operates a 1-stop service from Melbourne to London Heathrow via Dubai on an Airbus A380-800, which has been included as part of the joint venture scope between Qantas and Emirates that went into effect in 2013. However, with the addition of Perth-London, Qantas will be dismantling its Dubai hub on March 25. It also presently flies a daily Airbus A380 flight from Sydney to London via Dubai, which will be moved to operate via Singapore the same day.
Though Qantas is removing its metal from Dubai, the joint business agreement between Emirates and Qantas will remain and has been extended for an additional five years. Some routes like Perth-London Heathrow and presumably, Singapore-London Heathrow, will fall outside of the scope of the joint venture. However, routings between Europe and Australia which operate via Dubai, on Emirates metal, will still provide additional value to customers from a codeshare, frequent flier, and loyalty perspective.
The needs of the market have changed as Qantas has successfully restructured since the formulation of its joint business agreement with Emirates. The addition of the 787-9 to Qantas’ fleet allows it to offer a “thinner” cabin configuration with 3 classes of service: Business (42 seats), Premium Economy (28 seats) and Economy (166 seats) whereas its Airbus A380s have double the amount of seat capacity (484 vs. 236 on the 787-9). Click here to read Rocky’s review of the Qantas 787-9.
Moreover, Emirates has its own reasons for allowing Qantas to pull out of Dubai as a stopover point: 1) Qantas is culling overall seat capacity between Australia and London and 2) it can also route higher-yielding traffic on its new nonstop route to New Zealand, rather than give passengers the option to connect via Sydney Auckland.
It appears that the underlying logic for Qantas is to route England-Australia origin-and-destination passengers over Perth at a yield premium for the nonstop route and have Emirates/Dubai handle non-London routes between Europe and Australia.
Enhancing the Airport Experiences at Perth and Heathrow, including a “787-Only” Lounge
Qantas has invested in its airport products in preparation for the new Perth-Heathrow nonstop. In November 2017, it opened a new lounge at Heathrow after 12 months of construction, that sits up to 230 customers. It is based on the same concepts used at Qantas’ other international lounges in Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles, and Brisbane.
At Perth airport, Qantas is gearing up to open a new international wing to help facilitate domestic-international transfers. Previously, all international flights at Perth were handled out of Terminal 1, whereas all of Qantas’ domestic flights, including those on its regional subsidiary QantasLink and budget subsidiary Jetstar, operate out of Terminals 3 and 4. With the assistance of the Government of Western Australia, the airport has been able to construct the new international wing in Terminals 3 and 4. It will feature a large outdoor deck with alfresco seating, a streamlined customs and immigration area, new food and beverage outlets, and a duty-free store.
For lounge dwellers, there will also be an International Transit lounge that will be for exclusive use on customers flying on QF9 from Melbourne to London Heathrow, or London Heathrow to Melbourne, or from Perth to London Heathrow. It will have shower facilities, gourmet dining, an outdoor patio, and a wellness facility. The wing is expected to open on March 23. Although Qantas is also planning on moving its two international flights from Perth (to Auckland and Singapore) from terminal 1 to terminal 3, in order to consolidate its long-haul operations in the new facilities, passengers on those flights will have to use the domestic Qantas lounges at Terminal 4. In other words, this is a 787-only lounge. The lounge is available to, “all eligible passengers” booked onto QF9 from Perth to London, or passengers connecting onto QF9 from other destinations in Australia. Those flying on QF10, however, will only be able to access the transit lounge if they are continuing onto Melbourne. Opening hours are 1pm – 2:45pm, then 4:45pm to 6:50pm.
This will also serve as an important testing ground for potential future service from Perth to European points, such as Frankfurt or Paris.
Check it out: Video of Perth International Transit Lounge
Enhancements to Qantas’ In-Flight Products
The Spirit of Australia has taken an innovative approach to designing the in-flight meals for passengers on QF9/10 to help increase hydration and reduce jetlag through cuisine. Qantas’ Creative Director of Food, Beverage & Service Neil Perry has stated that the menus that will be introduced on the flights have combined research from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre Research Institute and the Rockpool Dining Group. The Charles Perkins Centre is an Australian medical research institute, clinic, and education hub that primarily focuses on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity
The concept behind the enhanced meal service is for Qantas passengers to enjoy dishes that encourage sleep at optimal times during the flight. The carrier has worked with clinical sleep specialists, nutritionists, and metabolic scientists to try out different menu combinations. These items will be trialed on the first flights, along with traditional, “customer favorites.” Furthermore, there are additional steps that will be taken with certain Frequent Flyers by using wearable technology and applications to collect data on sleeping and activity patterns, as well as hydration (both pre and post-flight).
Some of the menu items that Qantas has divulged include:
- Probiotic Bc30 infused Botanica cold-pressed juice shots
- Tuna poke salad
- Herbal tea
- A hot chocolate bedtime drink with the combination of warm milk and chocolate containing the sleep-inducing amino acid Tryptophan to help prompt the body’s sleep cycle
- Organic kombucha
Preparing for Flight
Years of planning has gone into making the Perth to London flight a reality. There are hundreds of variables involved, with multiple scenarios covered, such as diversion points, passenger facilities at said diversion points, weather patterns, and other details. Every day for the past year, forecasters have been examining conditions along the flight path from Perth to London, and then analyzing the most optimal route, from a safety and costs perspective, if the aircraft were to operate on that particular day.
The inaugural flight will be flown on register VH-ZND, named “Emily Kame Kngwarreye.” There will also be a backup Dreamliner in Perth just in case of any unprecedented technical needs. It will also be piloted by Captain Lisa Norman, who is Qantas’ Chief 787 pilot, along with one First Officer and one Second Officer.