Qantas Gets Closer To Marathon New York And London Flights

Qantas is getting closer to reaching its goal of becoming the first commercial carrier to offer a direct 19-hour flight between Sydney and New York.

The carrier has announced three ultra long-haul research flights will take place before the year's end.

Dubbed 'Project Sunrise', Qantas seeks to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

The test flights are expected to take two hours longer than its Perth-London route launched last year.

The airline will fly 120 staff and medical experts on the world's longest non-stop route from Australia to London and New York to study the impact ultra-long-haul trips have on passengers and crew.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the flights will give medical experts the chance to do real-time research that will translate into health and wellbeing benefits.

“Ultra-long haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them."

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Monash University researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights. Pilots will wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness.

Joyce said the flights are the "final frontier in aviation".

“For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight.

"For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights," he said.

No seats will be sold as these flights are for research purposes only. The flights will take place in October, November and December.

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The ambitious research plans were announced a day after Qantas reported its underlying pre-tax profit was hit by a $614 million increase in fuel costs from higher oil prices and a further $154 million impact from currency movements.

The airline’s statutory profit, which includes all one-off items, fell by 6.5 per cent to $891 million.