How ultra long-haul flights will change the way we travel

Qantas says it wants to be able to fly from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) non-stop to London. It’s just waiting for aircraft manufacturers to build a plane that can do it.

Given that a Boeing 777 LR plane can already fly non-stop for 17 hours, a 20-plus-hour flight may not be far away. Airbus’s A350 apparently also has potential.

But it will come with consequences — 

perhaps for the health of patients (who may be at more risk of DVT) and certainly for the health of some airlines, airport authorities and travel destinations.

Why? Because long-haul flights eliminate stopovers and potentially cut some airlines off from lucrative routes.

For example, Middle Eastern airlines Etihad, Emirates and Qatar currently fly from Australia to Europe stopping off at their home bases (Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha respectively). Under current regulations, all their flights are required to include their hub, so they wouldn’t be able to compete on a direct, non-stop flight Sydney to London.

So, unless the rules change, or they can offer inducements for people to take the “long way” — such as accommodation packages (which may work for the tourist favourite of Dubai, but not so much for Doha), superior service (which they do currently offer in their premium cabins, but may have to ramp up even more) or lower prices — they could lose a sizeable chunk of their business.

In fact, any airport, and its resident airline/s, that currently does big business out of being a transfer hub rather than a final destination could be in trouble.

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