Qantas has completed its first research flight between New
York and Sydney as it considers eventual regular service between those cities.
The flight, in a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, landed Sunday
morning in Sydney following 19 hours and 16 minutes in the air, Qantas said. Forty-nine
passengers and crew were on the plane. Qantas had previously said the
passengers would primarily be comprised of employees.
The flight was the first of two that Qantas will fly between
New York and Sydney this fall. The carrier will also fly a research flight from
London to Sydney. No commercial airline has flown a standard passenger service
between London or New York and Australia's east coast. At 11,185 miles,
London-Sydney is widely considered the ultimate challenge in the long-haul
Qantas aspires to begin flying both routes early next decade
and has challenged Boeing and Airbus to develop a jet capable of flying them
with a viable payload by 2023.
On the three research flights this fall the carrier is
conducting experiments to assess health and well-being on ultralong-haul
flights. Tests this weekend ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin
levels and alertness, to offering exercise classes for passengers.
"Night flights usually start with dinner and then lights
off. For this flight, we started with lunch and kept the lights on for the
first six hours, to match the time of day at our destination. It means you
start reducing the jet lag straight away," CEO Alan Joyce said.
Qantas expects to make a final decision on whether to go
forward with the routes by the end of December.
Correction: Qantas hopes to add flights from Sydney to New York and
London as soon as 2023. An earlier version of this article stated an
expected start date as soon as 2022.