Boeing confident 777-8 will be able to operate Sydney to London nonstop

Boeing is confident that with the 777-8 it can meet Qantas’ challenge of developing a next generation aircraft by 2022 capable of operating Sydney to London and New York non-stop.

Boeing senior VP Asia-Pacific and India sales Dinesh Keskar said at a media briefing in Singapore on 22-Sep-2017 that “we are going to take up that challenge and we think we have the product capable of meeting that challenge”.

Mr Keskar pointed out that with the 787-9 Boeing has already demonstrated to Qantas its ability to facilitate the launch of new ultra long-range routes. Qantas has eight 787-9s on order, all of which will be delivered in 4Q2017 and 2018, and will use the type to launch nonstop flights from Perth to London in Mar-2018. Perth-London is a 14,500km flight that will take 17 hours.

“We are going to take up that [Qantas’] challenge and we think we have the product capable of meeting that challenge”, Boeing senior VP Asia-Pacific and India sales Dinesh Keskar.

“We think the 777-8 has even more legs. We of course have time to refine that airplane,” Mr Keskar said.’

The first variant of the 777X family, the 777-9, is expected to enter service in 2020. The longer range 777-8 will follow and enter service around 2021.

The current spec for the 777-8 includes a range of 16,090km in two class 365-seat configuration, while the bigger 777-9 has a range of 13,940km in two class 414-seat configuration. Boeing will therefore have to improve on the 777-8’s range to make Sydney-London, which is a 17,016km route according to the Great Circle Mapper.

Airbus will also have to improve the range of its A350 to make Sydney-London as well as Sydney-New York. The longest range variant of the A350, the A350-900ULR, is slated to enter service in 2018 with a range of approximately 15,000km (depending on the configuration).

Singapore Airlines plans to use the A350-900ULR in a low-density configuration to resume nonstop flights from Singapore to New York, a route of 15,348km. Singapore-New York was the longest nonstop flight in the world from 2005 to 2013, when SIA operated it with A340-500s, and will regain this distinction when the route is resumed in 2H2018 or early 2019. Sydney-New York and Sydney-London would be even longer, potentially giving Qantas the distinction in 2022 of operating the longest two routes in the world.

Sydney-JFK is 16,013km, potentially putting it within range of the 777-8 without any improvements over the current spec. However, Qantas is not about to buy the 777-8 unless it can make the Sydney-London, which is a much larger market than Sydney-New York.

Qantas currently serves Sydney-New York daily via Los Angeles using 747-400s while Sydney-London is served daily via Dubai with A380s. In late Mar-2018, the stopover of the Sydney-London A380 flight will change back to Singapore and the current Melbourne-Dubai-London A380 service will be replaced with Melbourne-Perth-London using smaller 787-9s

Qantas has talked for years about the prospects of operating Sydney-London nonstop if the right next generation widebody aircraft was developed. Talk of Sydney-London escalated after Qantas announced the launch of Perth-London.

See related report: Qantas looks at longer range opportunities for future fleet expansion and more non-stop links into Europe

In releasing in late Aug-2017 its results for FY2017, Qantas took it one step further, publicly announcing a “challenge” to Airbus and Boeing to give their new generation ultra long-range widebody aircraft under development the range to make nonstop flights from Sydney to London and New York “possible with a full passenger payload”.

“I feel personally very confident that we are going to meet that challenge,” Mr Keskar said.