(CNN) – The longest flight in the world: non-stop, 20 hours while relaxing in your wide armchair and deciding if you want to relax with the best champagne, enjoy food designed by the chef with a companion sitting opposite, or to make the crew make you a gorgeous soft bed with fresh bed linen.
This is what has been offered to the six first-class passengers aboard Qantas Project Sunrise’s direct flights to Sydney from London and New York for three years since, and they can expect to pay the best part of the five-figure value for it.
How about the 140 economy class passengers who will be in the back of the 12 Airbus A350-1000 that the airline has commissioned to work on the service?
Qantas does not say. “We don’t have any updates at the moment, but we’re happy to keep you posted and share more when we have them,” a spokesman said.
However, we know that Qantas is already planning a well-being area that looks like an area around one of the galley kitchens where you can stretch out, maybe do some yoga poses, and probably just stand around for a while.
And, of course, Qantas will work hard to have a great selection of movies and TV shows to enjoy on the big new in-flight entertainment screens, as well as food and drinks to create especially for your well-being. longer flights.
But it is likely.
Ian Petchenik, host of the AvTalk aviation podcast, told CNN that “although much attention has been paid to the Qantas first class for Project Sunrise, I think the real difference for the rear passengers will be the soft product.
“You can improve so many fuel-efficient seats with nine rows, so finding ways to make a 20-hour flight on one of these seats delicious will come down to what else Qantas has to offer these passengers.”
I am an aviation specialist and for more than a decade I have been working with all kinds of people from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, designers and seat manufacturers to understand how to use every inch of the aircraft. And since Qantas is not talking, here are my professional conclusions about what will probably be offered on board.
First, there is little chance of something truly revolutionary. The three years until 2025 are not much time in aviation, especially when it comes to seats. Unless Qantas is planning some major bed opening – which will require a huge amount of safety certification work – it seems pretty certain that fuel-efficient passengers will simply be in normal seats.
Knees and shins
The A350 is one of the most convenient economy class options.
WEENDEL THEODORO / AFP via Getty Images
Returning to the first principles, the comfort levels in the economy class seats are based mainly on the style, inclination and width of the seat.
In terms of seat style, Qantas can be expected to take the best economy class seats on the market from the best design and engineering companies, such as Recaro or Collins Aerospace.
They are called fully equipped seats, with comfortable engineered foam for seats covered with special fabrics, significant tilt, significant headrest, footrest and in the case of Qantas small foot hammock.
In recent years, designers and engineers have worked hard on the backs and bases of aircraft seats to give enough space to the rear seat – especially for his knees and shins.
They figured out how to make the cushioned bottom of the chair, known as the seat tray, articulated when tilted, changing the pressure points on the passenger’s body when leaning back.
Qantas’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which launched in 2016, used a customized version of the CL3710 seat from German manufacturer Recaro.
CL3710 dates back to 2013 and Recaro makes updates every year, but it will not be surprising if it works on a special version for Qantas.
There may even be a brand new seat – from Recaro or someone else – with even more comfort. This may be ready for Qantas to start flying in late 2025.
In 2019, Qantas conducted experimental research flights, testing the London-Sydney section. CNN’s Richard Quest reports from the cockpit of such an ultra-long-haul flight.
The second comfort factor is the step that measures the point of one seat to the point of the same seat directly in front of it, so it’s not quite full legroom because it includes an inch or two of backrest structure.
Qantas has promised that the economy class seats on board will offer a 33-inch (84 centimeters) tilt.
That’s one inch more than the 2016 Dreamliner seats, and by 2025 I expect the seat engineering to narrow the seat structure by up to an inch to offer more knee room.
It will not be a surprise if Qantas also offers sections with extra legroom that can extend up to 35 or 36 inches, similar to United’s Economy Plus or Delta’s Comfort Plus – not premium economy, but just normal economy seats with more legroom.
How about the width?
There is either great news or terrible news for passengers, depending on how many seats Qantas puts in each row of the A350.
The large two-lane aircraft can hold either nine seats in a row, which is the standard offered by full-service airlines such as Qantas, Delta and Singapore Airlines, or 10 seats in a row, which is largely on board ultra- cheap and entertainment carriers such as the French Air Caraïbes and French Bee.
Width The A350 is one of the most comfortable options for economy class in the air with nine transverse seats over 18 inches wide. At 10, this is one of the least comfortable, with seats that barely scrape 17 inches, and also super narrow aisles.
You can imagine – and the cut published by Qantas certainly shows – that a full-service airline such as the Australian carrier would naturally choose the nine-cross configuration.
But Airbus is making a quiet plan to set aside an inch or two of extra space by weakening the side walls of the cabin. This has prompted some full-service airlines, including the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, to plan to install 10 seats on some future A350s.
Nonstop against a bus stop
An experimental flight from London to Sydney in 2019 saw passengers receiving exercise lessons.
James D. Morgan / Qantas
Qantas says it plans to install 140 economy-class seats on its A350. That would be 14 rows out of 10, but that number doesn’t split exactly into nine, even if you try to add a few extra spaces on the side or middle.
It would still be surprising to see Qantas do this, especially for these super long flights. But the airline installs almost as narrow seats on its Dreamliner seats, which fly continuously London-Perth for almost as long, so look at this space for details.
After all, every inch counts when it comes to economy class comfort. Many passengers – myself included – tremble at the idea of flying for more than 20 hours, even in business class.
I did something almost as long in business class on Singapore Airlines without a break from Newark to Singapore about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t much fun, even with the ability to go from movie to bed and back.
Whenever we end up talking about it, people always mention the other option, a section halfway from New York to Sydney in Los Angeles or San Francisco, or at one of a dozen first-class airports in Asia between Sydney and London.
But people have always been terrified of spending more time in a seat: first with the idea of a Kangaroo flight on a one-hop route, then with the idea of a 12-, 14- or 16-hour flight.
Before the pandemic, there were dozens of flights longer than that, with regular economy-class seats in the back, and people seemed ready to sit in them.
The question is how much difference these extra three or four hours over the London-Perth Qantas 787 Dreamliner will make for passengers – and most importantly, for their perceptions.