Qantas’ Project Sunrise A Cause for Concern in the Middle East

LONDON – Qantas recently sent a shock wave into the aviation industry by announcing it will re-start project sunrise. It announced the reprise of the once suspended project and gave us an insight into what the hard product on board the aircraft will look like.

First Class suites with adjacent beds, a newly designed business class, and something we have never seen before – an Economy class wellness area.

The Points Guy UK recently debated If the wellness area will be used for its intended purpose or if it will become the next pub in the sky. After all, on most flights, we can see a portion of passengers drinking like it’s a Wetherspoons, whilst others occupy the galley in hopes of establishing a yogi ashram.

Emirates & Etihad To Sweat The Most…

Qantas’s new ultra-long reach routes are set to grace the skies in 2025 from Sydney to London and New York. Project Sunrise is no surprise; however, it may be the cause of concern for airlines profiting from their geolocation to connect passengers.

The Middle East, specifically the UAE, has been a hub for connection since the late ’80s.

Through the hub and spoke model, Dubai International airport has become one of the busiest airports for international passenger traffic. The entire Emirates model is built on this foundation.

Moreover, it’s not just about connecting passengers to their destination. Luring them into the country holds a significant revenue role for the UAE. Global Data suggests that the UAE will return to 95% pre-pandemic passengers by the end of 2022.

This is permitted by Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s hub and spoke strategy. Moreover, not all the Middle East has adopted this model.

For example, Qatar Airways has invested heavily in making Doha a holiday destination and offers its travelers the possibility of extending their stay at no additional cost.

Thus, allowing tourism to contribute to the local economy.

The moral is clear, if more passengers fly to Australia direct, fewer will transit through the UAE, making its strategic position weaker. It’s not the first time we have seen pioneering technology grab center stage. We saw it with Concorde in the ’60s. However, its unaffordability to the masses gave regular airliners plenty of market space for their longer Atlantic crossings. 

One question lingers among industry analysts: Is everyone going to rush to book on 20 plus hour direct journey?

Data suggests that 58% of travelers prefer affordability over accessibility.

Only 52% will be initially willing to pay for the 20-plus-hour journey. Moreover, UAE airlines hold another card in their favor. Qantas is planning to fly to London and New York.

This suggests that most travelers among the last 52% will have to connect from another airport.

Thus, defeating the non-stop journey concept. Adding to the affordability variable (even in premium cabins) still put Emirati carriers a few steps ahead.

According to industry analysts, if the ultra-long reach route proves to be successful, it will pose a risk. The more successful it is, the more carriers will want to join the ultra-long-haul bandwagon. Ultimately decreasing entry barriers for the budget-conscious passengers.

New technology hasn’t always proved to reach the finish line first. For example, we often wonder why we had supersonic air travel almost 60 years ago, yet today in 2022, it still takes eight hours to reach New York from most European ports.

This is because Concorde was expensive, Fuel costs were high, and, mostly, seat availability was low. Will Qantas’s project sunrise prove us differently?

After all, it’s not like the A350 is a new entrant in the market like the Concorde was. The Australian carrier won’t be the only player with A350 on the market.

Many airlines will be attentively watching the pioneering of this route and evaluating its financial viability. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine the aviation sector without the UAE playing a lead character role.

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