Qantas to ground control: Tell NSW it’s dreaming over Sunrise flights

June 09, 2021
Image: Qantas

“Tell them – the New South Wales government – they are dreaming” is the unofficial word from sources at Qantas over suggestions that the airline would give a five-year exclusive to the harbor city for its upcoming ultra-long-range flights to London and New York.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that a five-year exclusivity on the flights to New York and London is part of a $50 million package of support from the New South Wales government to keep Qantas’s headquarters at its current location.

In January three Australian states took part in a bidding war as part of the airline’s review of its property locations including its head office currently in Mascot, Sydney, and last month the airline, to the surprise of no one, elected to stay put.

Other elements of the package say the SMH include:

  • Construction of a new Flight Training Centre with aircraft simulators to be based in NSW from 2023
  • Expansion of Qantas Loyalty in Mascot
  • Development of a comprehensive Indigenous and diversity employment program.

But a five-year exclusivity on the Sunrise flights is just not on.

“Maybe five months but even that is a stretch,” said one Qantas insider close to the project.

“It is just nonsense to suggest five years. These flights are way too important for us to even consider such a proposal when other airlines could launch similar services to Melbourne and Brisbane with 787s or A350s,” the insider said.

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Qantas plans to order up to 20 Airbus A350-1000s possibly later this year for delivery in 2023/24 to start daily flights between Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to London as well as daily flights from New York to Sydney and Melbourne.

Prior to COVID, the airline had established a daily non-stop with a 787 from Perth to London which evolved quickly into the airline’s most popular and profitable route. Qantas will also use the A350 on the Perth to London nonstops.

It would be “absurd,” said the insider for Qantas to lock out other cities from the non-stop capability.

Qantas had announced the A350 as the successful aircraft for its ambitious Sunrise Project in December 2019 but before the order was signed COVID-19 struck.

The official line from Qantas is:

• This letter is a draft offer from the NSW Government, about a week before we finalised our decision.
• It does not reflect the final agreement which, as we said in our announcement of 6 May, is still being negotiated.
• We won’t be commenting on any detail of agreements with any of the states because they are commercial in confidence. In principle, though, these agreements are about states recognising the significant value that the Qantas Group will bring to each local economy in the years ahead.