Blow for Boeing as Qantas picks Airbus' ultra long-haul jet

SYDNEY • Qantas Airways picked Airbus to provide ultra long-range planes for planned direct services that will stretch halfway around the world, a blow for Boeing after a two-year competition to land the deal.

The Australian airline chose the A350-1000 over Boeing’s 777X for proposed services connecting Sydney with New York and London. Qantas is preparing an order for as many as 12 planes, it said in a statement yesterday.

The choice of aircraft brings Project Sunrise, as Qantas calls the unprecedented non-stop services, closer to reality. But the airline yesterday also pushed back its final decision to go ahead with the ultra long-haul routes until March. That wins it time to secure a new agreement with pilots that is required for the extra-long flights.

The rival plane manufacturers had been chasing the contract ever since Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce in 2017 invited them to take up the challenge. Qantas, which plans to start the commercial services as soon as 2022 or 2023, has flown test runs on the routes – using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The 20-hour flights, if they go ahead, will be the longest in the world. A key hurdle has been finding a plane that can make the distance with a full load, and still have fuel in hand for emergencies. Airbus will fit an additional fuel tank on the A350 in order to give the aircraft the range to fly the routes, Qantas said yesterday.

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