Qantas could cut travel time on Perth-London marathon

by Clive Dorman - consumer editor
43
December 21, 2016

Australian national carrier Qantas may be able to speed up the time it takes to complete one of the world’s longest air journeys after it takes delivery of new Boeing Dreamliners next year.

Qantas reportedly has developed a plan to drop its current A380 service from Melbourne to London via Dubai in 2018 and replace it with a Dreamliner service via the Western Australian capital, Perth.

It’s understood, under that plan, the airline would start the daily Dreamliner service in Melbourne before stopping in Perth to begin the 14,500-kilometre non-stop service to London’s Heathrow airport.

The airline’s alliance partner Emirates would replace the daily Qantas service to Dubai with its own super-jumbos, freeing up two Qantas A380s for use elsewhere in its network.

The Perth-London leg would take the Dreamliner just under 17 hours, meaning that, with a buffer for air traffic congestion and delays, Qantas would allow about 17 hours and 50 minutes for the journey.

The total Melbourne-London journey time, with a 90-minute transit in Perth, would be around 23 hours and 20 minutes – nearly an hour faster than Qantas’s current journey time via Dubai, which requires a two-hour stopover in the Middle East.

When Qantas started flying one-stop services to London with long-range Boeing 747-400s via Asia in the 1990s, the journey took under 23 hours.  But the travelling time has edged up over the years because of increasing airways and airport congestion.

Qantas’s current daily late evening Melbourne-London A380 service, arriving in the British capital at lunchtime, now officially takes 24 hours 15 minutes. 

The slightly longer daily A380 from Sydney – leaving Sydney late afternoon and arriving in London at breakfast time – takes 25 hours and five minutes.

It is likely that the Melbourne-Perth-London service would be re-timed to arrive in the UK before 7am, using one of the Heathrow landing slots Qantas owns, but doesn’t use. Qantas has leased four of its eight daily “slot pairs” — worth up to $US60 million each, according to recent sale prices —  to its oneworld alliance partner, British Airways.

Qantas has said it has no plans to axe its existing daily service from Melbourne to London, but is understood to have a contingency plan if the long-haul travel market weakens in the next 18 months.

Since it announced its joint venture with Emirates in 2012 and changed its hub for London services from Singapore to Dubai, Qantas has had to periodically drop some of its weekly services from Melbourne because of low demand.

This is in spite of the dramatic cutback in Qantas’s schedule to Europe in the past decade, almost halved from three daily 747-400s a day to London via Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong and a daily Flight to  German business capital Frankfurt via Singapore to just two A380s to London via Dubai.

Qantas expects the new Perth-London service to be popular with travellers beginning their journey on the Australian east coast.

"Our modelling shows that people from the east coast, as well as South Australia,  would fly domestically to Perth to connect to our non-stop London service,” says chief executive Alan Joyce.

That would put seats in high demand as the Qantas Dreamliner 787-9 will fit only 236 people – less than half the 484 seats the airline now operates to London via Dubai.

The schedule for the new service, including connections from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, is expected to be announced in the first half of next year