The Boeing Dreamliner took off Saturday from Perth, in Western Australia, and landed in London early Sunday.
LONDON — Qantas Airways made a giant leap forward in long-haul travel with an inaugural nonstop flight between Australia and Britain in less than 24 hours over the weekend. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner arrived just over 17 hours after setting off from the western Australian city of Perth.
Flight QF9, which landed in London early Sunday, carried more than 200 passengers and 16 crew members. The flight was operated by four pilots during the journey, with one or two pilots resting at any one time.
Qantas’ chief executive, Alan Joyce, billed the trip as “historic” and “a game changer.”
The route marks the first nonstop passenger service between the continents, putting Europe’s financial center one night’s sleep from one of Australia’s major economic centers.
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The new link with Perth — a 9,009-mile journey — is around three hours quicker than routes that involve stopovers in the Middle East to change planes or refuel. It is also set to shorten journeys from London to Sydney or Melbourne, compared with flying via Dubai.
The route is about a quarter more than Britain’s previous longest service — 7,275 miles — which was flying between London and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
For Qantas, the Perth connection is a high-profile test for a planned ultra long-haul network that the airline hopes will span the world by 2022.
Qantas has challenged Boeing and Airbus to build a jet by 2022 that can fly fully loaded from Sydney to London without a break. Success on the Perth-London service would lay the foundations for even longer routes to Europe.
Flying business class from Perth to London with Qantas in mid-June would cost (U.S.) $5,099. Opting for Singapore Airlines via Singapore would take an extra 2 ½ hours but cost just (U.S.) $3,734, according to fares on Webjet.
Aircraft leaving Perth for London will need feeder passengers from around Australia, said Volodymyr Bilotkach, author of the book “The Economics of Airlines.” But flying from Sydney to London via Perth saves little time over a transfer in Asia or the Gulf, he said.
Andrew McGinnes, a spokesman for Qantas in Sydney, said bookings on the new route “have been strong,” and corporate clients in eastern Australia have indicated they’ll stop in Perth for meetings on their way to London. “It’s a very competitive market but this is a unique flight,” McGinnes said.
Some passengers agreed to share data on their sleeping and activity patterns with researchers from the University of Sydney. They wore monitors that recorded data about their mental state, eating patterns and hydration levels.
According to the airline, the “homestyle comfort food” menus for trips between Perth and London were designed to maintain hydration, aid sleep and reduce jet lag.
Among the first passengers to emerge was Robert Williamson, a mining executive from Perth who had traveled in business class. He told The Independent, a British newspaper, “It was surprisingly good — above my expectation.”
Peter Robinson, a builder from Liverpool, England, who lives in Perth and flew economy, pronounced the food “ordinary,” though he said the flight was “good; quicker than I thought.”
To keep discomfort to a minimum, the airline said, the plane has features that improve air quality and lower cabin noise. Most aircraft have cabin air pressure equivalent to that of an altitude of 8,000 feet, but for the Dreamliner, Boeing cut that down to 6,000 feet — meaning it’s closer to conditions on the ground.
The aircraft traveled over the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, the southern tip of India, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Previous flights between Australia and Britain stopped at least once to refuel. But the 787 can travel from Perth to London with a full payload in one hop.