Qantas 20-hour direct flight trial takes aim at jet lag

Airline plans to keep everybody awake for six hours, to switch to Sydney time straight away

Flights of all durations have been known to take their toll on mood. Hell may be other people, but more specifically it is other passengers. Photograph: Will Burgess/Reuters

Flights of all durations have been known to take their toll on mood. Hell may be other people, but more specifically it is other passengers. Photograph: Will Burgess/Reuters

 

Here’s one for people with a fondness for flight tracker apps: in the air for most of Saturday in the GMT+1 time zone is QF 787-9, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner en route from New York to Sydney with zero fuel stops. The historic 20-hour journey, which was due to take off at 9pm New York time on Friday night, is a test flight for Qantas’s Project Sunrise mission to connect Sydney directly with both New York and London.

The hope of the Australian airline’s Irish chief executive, Alan Joyce, is that Qantas will be able to offer non-stop flights over these unprecedented distances from as early as 2022.

QF 787-9 will mostly be populated by Qantas executives, including Joyce, crew and frequent flyers taking part in a secondary experiment to explore in-flight habits that might help mitigate jet lag. Instead of serving food and dimming the lights after take-off, Qantas plans to keep everybody awake for six hours, in effect switching to Sydney time straight away.

Half a dozen human guinea pigs will follow a planned schedule for eating, drinking and moving about the cabin, and keep a log of all this so that researchers can get a handle on how it affects their sleep, sleepiness, cognitive powers and mood.

Flights of all durations have been known to take their toll on mood. Hell may be other people, but more specifically it is other passengers. Joyce told Bloomberg TV that flights serving its 17-hour connection between London and Perth are 95 per cent full, which must surely tempt some passengers into chasing the odds of an empty seat alongside on two slightly less crowded flights, even if it means suffering a stopover.

As for Qantas’s test flight, the sun will have risen by the time it touches down at an expected arrival of 7.10am Sydney time on Sunday.

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