With all of the buzz and excitement of Qantas’ ‘Project Sunrise’ second direct test flight from London to Sydney last week in just over 19 hours, longer nonstop connections are seemingly on the horizon.
Flight SQ32 Singapore to New York is currently the longest flight in the world courtesy of Singapore Airlines and takes almost hours from Changi to Newark flying on the Airbus A350.
Then it’s our own Australian flying royal family at #2 Qantas’ who’s highly coveted Perth to London Heathrow direct flight chimes in at around 17 hours 45 minutes-ish on their Boeing’ Dreamliner 787-9’s.
Screeching onto the runway just behind in third place is Qatar Airways Auckland to Dohar XL long leg running 17 hours and 50 minutes, also on the Airbus A350.
Air New Zealand will begin flying direct from Auckland to New York from October 2020 with a flight time of around 15 hours northbound and 17 hours 40 minutes southbound.
If Qantas’ Project Sunrise flights do go ahead, we’ll see the flying roo elevating to the top spot for the world’s longest flight and after that, well who knows.
We’ll find out in the next few weeks according to Qantas with the aim to start flying from 2022/23 if the project gets the green light.
The question to ponder then is, what are the pros and cons of such long flights? And which way would you go? Here’s our initial thoughts.
You’ll get there faster: “OBVIOUSLY!” I hear you say. The Qantas London to Sydney nonstop flight carved off around 3 hours versus stopping over which is advantageous for business travellers or anyone who just can’t wait to get to where they’re going.
That said, there were only 52 passengers on board the test flight which lightened the load significantly so the jury’s out on the final flight time should the direct flights go ahead.
You could also argue that the nonstop advantage only rings true if your final destination is London in the Qantas example. If you’re flying onto say Birmingham or Glasgow you may not save any time at all versus flying via a transit hub airport.
So there’s a lot of parameters to factor in here.
It’s less hassle: The biggest issue with any layover is that they increase the risk of missed flights and can cause further delays to an already very long journey. Flying non-stop eliminates all that (in theory anyway – you could still get delayed anyway) as you are only travelling point to point.
Immigration is painful at the best of times. Hello the U.S! Flying non-stop is one less round of security checks to go through which will always be appealing especially if you’re travelling as a family or in a group.
Stay connected on the way: Most of today’s aircraft feature in-flight wifi which enables travellers to make better use of their time in the air and focus on getting work done without the distractions of office colleagues and day to day tasks or meetings.
Qantas didn’t have this option on their test flights but you’d have to think this would be a mandatory requirement for business travellers out of touch for so long.
On a personal level, it could mean that you can keep abreast of something going on back at home and allow you to stay in touch throughout your extra long journey.
You may of course not want to be connected at all (see the point below), but at least you’d now have the choice.
It’ll be cheaper: Maybe. Maybe not. While we don’t know what the Project Sunrise fares would end up costing, the Qantas Perth – London non-stop is more expensive than stopping over say in Singapore or Bangkok.
We searched for a flight leaving at the end of next week from Perth on qantas.com.au and while it was a sale fare – the non-stop still came in at AU$1848 return with a return ticket via Singapore only costing AU$1643 for the same dates.
BUT… Once you add up all of the money you might spend on a stopover (even just in the airport) and what you’d save in time (because time is money right!) there may not be much difference and you may save money.
Quiet time: It’s a rarity for most of us these days. Long flights force you to sit in one place and be. Jotting down lists, thoughts, goals, ideas, bucket lists and memoirs often lead to some Eureka moments. Or you can binge yourself crazy on TV or movie series.
The comfort factor: If you’re going to be turning left when you get on the plane (or sitting in premium economy), your inflight experience is going to be a lot more pleasurable for obvious reasons.
If you’re up the back with 166 others in economy (as per the current Qantas Dreamliner configuration), there may be some moments when you may think “what have I done to myself?”.
Singapore Airlines has limited the chance of this feeling somewhat on their Singapore to New York A350 non-stop flight by configuring the cabin with Premium economy, Business and First seats only, which is all well and good, except that it comes of course with a premium price tag.
While Qantas has made significant advances to their economy seat comfort and amenities on their Dreamliner, let’s face it, sitting in ANY seat for almost 20 hours is going to be testing. Maybe Qantas will ditch economy altogether if Project Sunrise does go ahead.
What about the kids? This could go either way. Travelling with tiny ones (under 5) could be more relaxed (if your kids are good sleepers) or an ugly nightmare for you and everyone else if that’s not the case.
The price: Much like above, the non-stop is likely to be more expensive than a stopover fare. It’s at this point you probably need to ask yourself “Why do I need to fly non-stop?” There’s always a lot to be said for the journey itself.
The food: Qantas has enlisted scientists at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Institute to help make the entire experience less stressful for your body. Thanks to theirs and Neil Perry’s input, the airline has brought in healthy menus specially tailored to help travellers combat and control jetlag before, during and after its longest-haul flights.
This is all well and good, but you’ll still be eating plane food in a pressurised can for sub 20 hours. Stopping over means you can eat foods of your choice while getting some exercise and fresh air at the same time to ease your digestion and blood flow.
The health risk: The paranoid fliers of us recommend that long-haul travellers get their flu shots, bring their water bottles and use disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer liberally. Those at risk for blood clots or with certain medical conditions should perhaps consider shorter flight options instead.
Both the A350 and the Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft do feature bigger windows and enhanced ventilation systems with pressurised cabins to a lower altitude. Having flown on both numerous times (14.5 hours being the furthest time), I can attest to much less of an impact on your mind and body jetlag wise, but it’s always going to be subjective to the individual.
THE VERDICT – YOU DECIDE!
I think it all depends on your situation and reason for travel. After all, does flying non-stop really matter to you? If it does and you need to be there quicker then that’s a good reason.
Your trip should never be about enduring a marathon to save a few hours or dollars, so it’s worth weighing it all up in close detail. There’ll always be a good rationale for both options.
Plus, isn’t it all about the journey? Somehow I can’t imagine your Facebook or Instagram feeds full of talk and shots of how much time you spent on the plane element of your trip.
What you do when you get there, and the fantastic experiences you have will always be the lasting memory.
Happy ‘super long haul’ travels.
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