Qantas has announced that flight QF7879 has landed in Sydney after traveling non-stop to New York. With a flight time of 19 hours and 16 minutes in the air, it is officially the longest non-stop flight in the world stealing the top spot from Singapore Airlines who regularly travel from New York to Singapore.
Qantas is intending to test another non-stop flight, this time from London to Sydney which would add an extra 1 hour of flight time and 500 miles.
As airplanes continue to develop technological advancements and better fuel economy these longer flights become possible. However, this raises the question of how well flight crews and passengers will cope with the extra air time instead of the usual layovers which many passengers feel gives a much-needed break.
Qantas carried out research during the flight and intends to do so again in the planned London-Sydney flight to see how people cope with the extended time in the air and also looking at how to minimize the effects of jet-lag in passengers who will be crossing a total of 15 time zones.
The flight took 40 passengers and 10 crew with a complement of 4 pilots. The passengers included frequent fliers, Qantas staff, researchers and media. A full load of passengers and the associated cargo would reduce the plane's range, making the continuous flight impossible but there are planes in development that will be able to do this.
Airbus and Boeing are expected to have these ready for service within the next 5 years.
The reduced numbers meant that passengers could make use of a business class seat which converts into a bed but they were asked to spend as much time as possible in the coach cabin. One of the passengers said that he felt better than expected and although he usually prefers direct flights rather than layovers he did not know how he was going to feel after the full 20 hours.
Qantas also adjusted the in-flight routine so as soon as the aircraft took off the flight was in Sydney time.
All of the lighting, meals, and food were tailored accordingly in an attempt to help the passengers adjust more easily to the time zones. All of the staff worked to the custom shift times and ate the adapted menu but also participated in additional tests including melatonin and brainwave measurement.
The team of 4 pilots under Captain Sean Golding worked together for landing and take-off and then worked in four shifts.