Official: Qantas Announces World’s “Longest” Flight, a Non-Stop Kangaroo Route

Qantas will soon be taking delivery of the 787-9, which is a stretched variant of the Dreamliner with a longer range and a higher maximum takeoff weight. Earlier this year, they unveiled a new logo and livery to coincide with the 787 launch, and outfitted the cabins with updated seats. There had been speculations as to whether Qantas will finally launch a non-stop Kangaroo route, and it looks like the rumors are true!

Qantas has officially announced that they will be launching non-stop flights between Perth (PER) and London (LHR) in early 2018 with the 787-9 Dreamliner.

Qantas 787 Dreamliner with the new livery. Source: Qantas

Qantas 787 Dreamliner with the new livery. Source: Qantas

New World’s Longest Flight by Distance

At more than 9,000 miles, this will be the longest route in terms of great-circle distance between origin and destination if it were to start flying today. The title is currently held by Emirates’ flight between Auckland and Dubai, which is operated by the Airbus A380 and has a great-circle distance of 8,825 miles. At about 17 hours, Qantas says that Perth – London will be the 3rd longest flight by flying time.

Of course, this still won’t be the longest flight in history. Up until November 2013, Singapore operated a non-stop flight between Singapore (SIN) and Newark (EWR), which were 9,535 miles apart. The flight was operated by an Airbus A340-500, especially configured with an all-Business Class layout.

Even with the 787-9, the flight will still likely have to be weight restricted. So Qantas may not be able to sell every single seat on the plane, and may have to limit the amount of cargo they also transport.

Current “Kangaroo Routes”

The “Kangaroo Route” was first used as a marketing term for flights between Australia and the UK, but is now also used to describe any such route that flies via the Eastern Hemisphere.

Currently, those hoping to fly between the UK and Australia do usually connect through cities in Asia or the Middle East. There are a dozen of Asian and Gulf carriers that fly to both Australian cities in European cities, so there are actually ton of options out there.

Qantas, for instance, currently partners with Emirates and operates the kangaroo route with a stop in Dubai. Take a look at the difference in great-circle distances between Perth and London, and one that includes a Dubai stop; it’s negligible.

The great-circle distance between Perth and London, and between Perth, Dubai, and London.

The great-circle distance between Perth and London, and between Perth, Dubai, and London.

The same can be said with other Australian cities. If you look at the great-circler or orthodromic distance (shortest path between two points) between Sydney to London, and one that includes a stop in Hong Kong, the difference is just about 2 miles.

The great-circle distance between Sydney and London, and one that includes a stop in Hong Kong.

The great-circle distance between Sydney and London, and one that includes a stop in Hong Kong.

Of course, orthodromic distance is not the same as flying distance, so having a direct flight will indeed shave some time off. However, many airlines that operate the “kangaroo route” already schedule their flights with “kangaroo route” travelers in mind, so connection time can be pretty minimal.

Additionally, for many travelers (myself included), breaking such a long flight up into two segments is not necessarily a bad thing. Flying in Economy can definitely be pretty taxing on such a long flight, and even if I was flying in a Business Class seat, I’d appreciate being able to really stretch out for a bit.

The New Non-Stop Kangaroo Route, with Special Considerations

So you might ask, what value will the Perth – London flight add? 

For many people, a non-stop kangaroo route has been a dream, so this will probably be exciting to those folks. Additionally, flying direct between Australia and the UK will eliminate the need to go through immigration or customs in a third country. But other than a true non-stop flight that will probably save time and make business travelers happy, Qantas is also launching this flight with a special consideration in mind.

For starters, Qantas will be operating this flight out of the domestic terminals (T3/4) in Perth (PER). This was a pretty big discussion point in the negotiation process between Qantas and the airport, which initially strongly preferred that Qantas operate the flight out of the international terminal (T1), and offered a multi-million dollar incentive package to Qantas.

However, with the flight operating out of the domestic terminal, passengers that originate from other Australian cities can head straight to the gate and board the London-bound flight without having to change terminals. Qantas will likely work with the airport to install a “International Departures” area within the domestic terminal, so passengers can go through customs there. Existing flights for the Kangaroo Route (the ones via Dubai and Singapore) will also move to the domestic terminals.

Additionally, I can imagine this being a “test of concept” route for Qantas. Ultra long-haul flights are usually only marginally profitable, even with a fuel efficient aircraft like the 787. But as Qantas takes deliveries of more 787-9, they might be looking to launch non-stop flights from Australia to even more European destinations. This can potentially serve as a blueprint for their expansion.

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  1. Perth isn’t a major destinations and those bound for Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane won’t find this any faster than the current one stop service. Besides, the transfer facilities in Dubai and Hong Kong are ages better than Perth. The 787 isn’t a comfortable plane to fly that long in anyway. I think it won’t last.

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