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Sydney, Australia - Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways has shelved plans to operate the world's longest direct flights mamed "Project Sunrise".

The airline said it would also revise its fleet structure due to the collapse of international travel as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive, said on May 5 that his airline was on track to reduce its cash burn rate to A$40m a week by the end of June, which would enable it to last out the pandemic that has grounded most of its flights.

But a full recovery in international travel could take years, he said, which meant the carrier needed to overhaul its operations.

"Very clearly the Qantas of 2021 and 2022 will not be the Qantas of 2019. We’re looking at the scope, the scale of our businesses going forward,”

Mr. Joyce said.


The decision to suspend indefinitely its “Project Sunrise” plan to fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne to European cities and New York is a blow for Qantas, which has invested significant resources in ultra-long-haul travel. It is also disappointing for Airbus, which won the contract to supply modified aircraft for the routes.

“We will be putting Project Sunrise on hold,” 

said Mr. Joyce.

“The time is not right now given the impact that Covid-19 has had on world travel. We certainly won't be ordering aircraft for that this year.”

Qantas had intended to order 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft before the end of March to operate the world’s longest commercial direct flights, including the so-called kangaroo route between Australia and the UK. The carrier recently sealed a long-delayed industrial relations agreement with pilots to enable it to begin flying the routes.

Social separation might work for an hour’s domestic flight, the risks in sitting in the same aircraft for these ultra-long-haul commercial flights would require strenuous health and safety precautions that we haven’t yet worked out,” an industry analyst said.

Qantas has also flagged some of its planes for early retirement.

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