Qantas has launched the first ever non-stop flight between Europe and Australia, which will link London to Perth from next year.
On Thursday (27 April), Australia's flagship carrier unveiled the schedule and fares of the new service, which will take off from Heathrow Airport for the first time on 25 March 2018. Qantas said it will operate the flights on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner, fitted with 42 business class "suites", 28 premium economy seats and 166 economy seats.
"We've said the Qantas Dreamliner is a game changer, and that's becoming real today," said Qantas' chief executive Alan Joyce.
"The kangaroo route has kept changing with new technology. It used to take four days and seven stops but now we're able to link Australia and UK in a single hop. It's a level of convenience Australians have never had before."
However, passengers wanting to fly to Australia without stopping will have to pay a premium for the privilege. Seats for the flight are on sale from £725 when combined with a return flight – which costs normally £590 – but start at £988 for a one-way flight.
The total fare of £1,315 for a return trip is almost twice as expensive as the price of a flight from Heathrow to Perth via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, which costs £694. However, Qantas said that once the novelty factor wears off, seats are "expected to drop below £900 return during deal periods."
Joyce added the Australian airline expected the flight to be popular with business people and tourists alike.
"This route makes Western Australia a new tourism gateway for Australia. We know from our research that there's a lot of appetite to explore the west, not just from British and European visitors but also from Aussies on their way to London," he said.
"A lot of business travellers, particularly in the resources sector, will stop off in Perth on their way to the UK."
The 9,009-mile flight will be the longest non-stop service from any UK airports, comfortably beating the two current longest routes, which connect Heathrow to Jakarta – 7,275 miles away – via a Garuda Indonesia flight, and the capital's main airport to Santiago de Chile – 7,248 miles – via a British Airways service.
According to Qantas estimates, thanks to the jetstream, the outbound flight will take approximately 15 hours and 45 minutes, departing Heathrow at 1.30pm GMT on Saturday and landing in Perth at 1.15pm AWST (5.15am GMT) the following day.
The plane will then continue onto Melbourne, touching down at 9pm AEDT (10am GMT), shaving 45 minutes on the current flight from Heathrow to Melbourne via Dubai.
The return flight, meanwhile, will leave Perth at 6.50pm AWST (10.50am GMT) and land back in Britain at 5am GMT the following day.
The London to Perth route, however, will not be the longest direct flight in the world, falling behind behind Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland – the current record holder at 9,032 miles – and Air India's service connecting Delhi to San Francisco.
The mantle of longest-direct flight is a contested accolade, which Air India claimed to have seized in 2016, after it added 850 miles by switching the direction of its flight from Delhi to San Francisco, flying over the Pacific on the outbound leg.
Qantas flights 9 and 10 will replace the airline's existing Melbourne-Dubai-London services, which will almost halve the number of available seats available on the London-Melbourne route on a daily basis.
"We're conscious that this is a long flight, but not much longer than our Sydney to Dallas service," Joyce added. "It's the kind of route that the Dreamliner was created for, because of its built-in features to reduce jet lag and improve the overall travel experience."