Record flight, record jet lag? Qantas touches down after 19hr 19min

A direct London-Sydney service is on the cards – if passengers and crew can bear it

Qantas nonstop flight: Capt Helen Trenerry and First Officer Ryan Gill demonstrate the monitors they wore during the London-Sydney test trip

Qantas nonstop flight: Capt Helen Trenerry and First Officer Ryan Gill demonstrate the monitors they wore during the London-Sydney test trip

 

If you’re considering a trip down under but are prone to cabin fever, this might not come as good news, but Qantas has just flown further and for longer than any other commercial passenger flight in history.

Whereas other flights stop to refuel – and let passengers take a break from being stuck inside a plane – one of the Australian airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners touched down in Sydney this morning after a nonstop test trip from London that clocked in 19 hours and 19 minutes. That’s three minutes longer than its New York-Sydney test flight last month.

Flying from London to Sydney typically takes between 22 and 26 hours, with a stop in the Middle East or southeast Asia; many passengers opt to break the journey with a night in Dubai, Bangkok or Hong Kong.

Qantas, which is preparing for direct commercial services to Sydney from London and New York as soon as 2022, used the trips to investigate ways to reduce passenger jet lag and manage crew fatigue. Both test flights carried only about 50 people, to keep the planes light enough to reach their destinations; the London-Sydney flight had enough fuel left for another 100 minutes or so in the air when it landed.

Qantas nonstop flight: the airline’s Dreamliner lands in Sydney on Friday. Photograph: James Morgan/Qantas/AP
Qantas nonstop flight: the airline’s Dreamliner lands in Sydney on Friday. Photograph: James Morgan/Qantas/AP
Qantas nonstop flight: some of the 50 passengers aboard the London-Sydney test trip. Photograph: Jill Gralow/Reuters
Qantas nonstop flight: some of the 50 passengers aboard the London-Sydney test trip. Photograph: Jill Gralow/Reuters

Capt Helen Trenerry, who led the test flight, said before takeoff on Wednesday that research data including activity monitoring, sleep diaries, cognitive testing and monitoring of melatonin levels would help determine whether the crew mix of one captain, one first officer and two second officers was appropriate or if more people were needed.

Passengers will also need to be willing to take such a long flight for a nonstop service to be viable.

Qantas, whose third and final research flight leaves New York for Sydney in December, first started flying between London and Sydney in 1947. It took five days and six stops. The airline also flew a stripped-down and near-empty Boeing 747 direct from London to Sydney in 1989. – Bloomberg, Reuters