Plane upgrades spark boom from layovers to longer flights

Travelling from Australia to many other parts of the world has long meant a layover or two along the way – but that’s changing.

Australia and New Zealand are seeing a boom in ultra-long-haul flights thanks to the increasing use of longer-range, wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A350-1000, data from travel analytics company Cirium shows.

Data shows that in 2010, the longest route from either Australia or New Zealand was Melbourne to Los Angeles; operated by Qantas and Virgin, with the route totalling about 13,000 kilometres and taking 14.5 hours.

More than a decade later, there are 10 routes longer than that.

The longest is now Qatar Airways’ 16-hour Auckland to Doha flight – at more than 17 hours and 14,535 kilometres, it is the third-longest route in the world, sitting behind Singapore to New York and Singapore to Newark.

Other new ultra-long-haul routes from Australia and New Zealand include Perth to London, Melbourne to Dallas-Fort Worth, and Auckland to New York.

The number of ultra-long-haul routes are expected to continue to grow as Boeing and Airbus continue developing new aircraft with greater range, and airlines are keen to jump on board.

Qantas’ ultra-long-haul plans

Qantas is already planning A350-1000 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London.

Dubbed ‘Project Sunrise’, the routes are set to launch in 2025 and will clock in at more than 19 hours, threatening the Auckland to Doha route’s title as the third-longest route in the world.

The A350s will have significantly less seat capacity than the A380s currently in use; 238, down from 484.

Concept art of Qantas’ upcoming ultra-long-haul flights shows passengers will have room to move around. Photo: Qantas

Economy passengers won’t have much more wriggle room, but they will get technological upgrades like bluetooth connectivity to screens.

The planes will also include a ‘Wellbeing Zone’ between the economy and premium economy cabins to help keep bodies healthy and moving on the hours-long flight.

Open to passengers of any class, the area will feature a selection of healthy refreshments and large monitors displaying curated guided movements with accompanying sculpted surfaces and integrated handles to help facilitate stretching.

Complaints about Australian airlines remain very high, but they have begun to improve their on-time performance since travel opened up after the pandemic.

Research has also revealed that many Aussies have recently been hitting pause increasingly when it comes to travel, thanks to the cost-of-living crisis.

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