Qantas looks to future of long haul

Exercise zones, on-board child care and self-serve cafes could all become standard features aboard flights from Australia under the latest efforts by Qantas to redefine long-haul travel.

The carrier has moved into the next stage of its “Project Sunrise” quest for non-stop flights to Europe from Australia’s east coast, and is calling for input from its frequent flyers to help design its future aircraft.

Having challenged the major aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to create planes capable of flying from Sydney to London or New York without a stopover, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has begun speaking publicly about game-changing concepts that could be introduced at the same time, such as creating sleeping bunks in the cargo hold.

Some ideas are firmly in the category of “blue sky thinking”, but others have been put to more than 12,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer members in a survey that asks for their thoughts.

Among concepts being considered are stretch/exercise zones, communal bars, self-serve cafs, creches and work stations. Qantas has also asked about converting several on board lavatories into more spacious “change and refresh” stations, though weight limitations would likely prevent planes carrying enough water for showers.

With travellers set to spend up to 22 hours in the air, passenger comfort and wellbeing will be critical. The airline has already engaged with global aircraft seat manufacturers, inviting them to come up with concepts for next-generation Economy and Premium Economy seats for the long-haul flights. Other elements up for consideration include the future of in-flight entertainment and food and beverage concepts.

“The launch of direct flights from the east coast of Australia to Europe, UK and the US is going to completely revolutionise air travel and we are keen to do the same thing with the inflight offering for passengers on board these flights,” said Qantas head of customer strategy and product development Phil Capps.

“It’s still early days and the final cabins may feature some or none of the ideas we’re asking for feedback on, but we want to have the conversation with our customers to help inform our planning. We wanted to put all options on the table,” he said.

“What sounds unconventional today may well become tomorrow’s new norm. Some ideas are more viable than others, but our strategy is to find out what the priorities are for a cross section of travellers.”