Qantas puts world’s longest flight plan on hold amid Covid-19

The airline was set to start services from New York and London to Sydney in 2023 but says now is not the right time to think about ultra-long haul flying

The world's longest passenger flights from Australia to both London and New York will not go into operation any time soon due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Qantas had planned to launch the services in 2023, but has since said that now is not the right time to set the wheels in motion.

Qantas' Project Sunrise operation got under way last year when the airline flew record-breaking research flights as part of its plan to introduce ultra-long haul commercial flights.

Ultra-long haul test flights from New York to Sydney and from London to Australia recorded flight times of just under 20 hours apiece.

The airline had expected to make a decision on which aircraft would operate the world's longest non-stop flights in March this year, but recently postponed this until the end of the year.

Qantas has now postponed the decision indefinitely due to the pandemic.

"We certainly won't be ordering aircraft for that this year," Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said on Tuesday in a local briefing, according to Executive Traveller.

The airline has also extended international flight cancellations until the end of July. Travellers booked to fly with Qantas in June and July will be "contacted directly and offered alternatives" said the airline in a statement.

Qantas has also cut a huge majority of its regular passenger services. It is currently operating around 5 per cent of its pre-crisis domestic flights, and only around 1 per cent of its international network, according to the airline.

Australia-New Zealand travel bubble

epa08401783 (FILE) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (R) speak to the media during a press conference at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, 28 February 2020 (reissued 05 May 2020). According to media reports, Australia and New Zealand discussed on 05 May about introducing a trans-Tasman bubble to allow travel between the two countries. The plan was set in motion after Ardern reportedly stressed out that the New Zealand border will be closed for a long time, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  EPA/BIANCA DE MARCHI  AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

The airline remains cautious about the future of flying, and is looking to domestic and regional flights as a first priority.

“Australia has done an amazing job of flattening the curve and we’re optimistic that domestic travel will start returning earlier than first thought, but we clearly won’t be back to pre-coronavirus levels any time soon," said Joyce.

"With the possible exception of New Zealand, international travel demand could take years to return to what it was."

Australia and New Zealand are working together on a plan that may see Australia’s international flight restrictions loosened to make a travel corridor to New Zealand.

The Antipodean travel bubble would be possible if the two countries' success battling the coronavirus continues. New Zealand recorded no new cases of the virus on Monday, May 4.

"If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month.

When this corridor would open, if it gets the go ahead, is not yet clear, however some Australasian travel experts have quoted August as a potential timeframe.