Qantas is set to announce a landmark order for Airbus A350-1000 jets capable of non-stop flights from Sydney to London as part of a wider deal with the European planemaker, according to sources.
The multibillion-dollar order, to be unveiled in a Sydney airport hangar on Monday, brings the Australian carrier closer to launching record-breaking direct flights of nearly 20 hours on the lucrative “kangaroo route” by mid-2025.
Qantas has touted plans for the world’s longest commercial flights for more than five years but delayed its “Project Sunrise” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal is a breakthrough for the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, who has described non-stop Sydney-London flights as the holy grail for the 101-year-old carrier.
The Australian airline launched the route in 1947 with Lockheed Constellations, when it took several stops and 58 hours of flying. Today’s one-stop flights take almost 24 hours.
Qantas in 2018 started non-stop flights from Perth, in Western Australia, to London that take 17 hours to carry passengers 14,500km or 9,000 miles.
The Airbus expansion comes days after Boeing further delayed the development of its 777X jetliner, which had at one stage been in contention to allow direct flights from Australia’s east coast to London and New York.
An Airbus-owned A350-1000 was flying on Sunday from Toulouse to Perth, tracking service FlightRadar24 showed.
Qantas, which has said it would make a significant announcement on Monday about the future of its network, declined to comment. Airbus also declined to comment.
On Sunday the West Australian newspaper said, without citing sources, that the Qantas order would include 12 A350s, 20 A321XLRs and 20 A220s as well as purchase rights for 106 more airplanes spread among the different types.
Qantas in December selected Airbus as the preferred supplier for a major order to renew its ageing narrowbody fleet, in a blow to its incumbent supplier Boeing.
An airBaltic A220 was parked in Sydney on Sunday, FlightRadar24 showed. That destination is not on a normal route for the European carrier. Australia has no A220 operators at present.
Qantas declined to comment when contacted by Guardian Australia on Sunday except to say the airline was making an announcement on Monday.