The longest flight in the world suspended by the coronavirus

The longest flight in the world suspended by the coronavirus

Sydney (CNN) – At a time when traveling for more than two kilometers is an unachievable dream beyond the reach of millions of people, it is not surprising that the mood is not right to continue with plans for a 19-hour non-stop flight service between London and Sydney .

Australian airline Qantas broke two world records last November with its experimental research flight GF789, which became the world’s longest passenger flight by a commercial airline both by distance, at 17,800 kilometers (approximately 11,060 miles), and for duration in flight, at 19 hours and 19 minutes.

The flight was part of an ambitious Qantas plan dubbed Project Sunrise which also included non-stop services between New York and Sydney.

Described as Qantas’ chief executive Alan Joyce as the “last frontier” of commercial flight, the world seemed ready to usher in a new generation of long-haul flights. The airline was expected to announce a decision in the past few weeks on whether or not to continue with the services.

So Covid-19 appeared on the horizon.

Flight Qantas QF7879 arrives for landing at the end of its record flight.

James D Morgan / Qantas

“There is enormous potential for Project Sunrise, but at the moment is not the time given the impact that Covid-19 has had on world travel,” Joyce said in a call to reporters on May 5, in statements confirmed to CNN from Qantas.

Qantas had hoped to make the new routes part of its regular schedule by 2023. It was announced in December that the airline had chosen Airbus as a partner for the routes and was drafting an agreement for up to 12 modified A350s.

“We’re obviously talking to Airbus about the 350,” Joyce said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “While we are in a recovery phase of Covid-19, it is not appropriate for us to place an order for the large number of aircraft and capital expenditure that this would entail.”

The project is still very much on the airline’s radar, however, with Joyce describing the Sunrise Project as “a longer term opportunity”.

Qantas shared a video last month revealed how its planes are maintained and cared for after being taken out of service during the pandemic.

All international Qantas scheduled flights are currently suspended, as are those of its subsidiary Jetstar. Together they grounded more than 150 planes, including all their A380s, 747s and B787s.

Qantas celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. The airline’s original mission was to serve sparsely populated northern Australia and its first plane was an Avro 504, a WWI biplane that could accommodate a pilot and passenger.

CNN’s Barry Neild, Richard Quest, Michelle Toh, Lilit Marcus and Miquel Ros contributed to this report.

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