The first nonstop flight from Australia to Britain has touched down at Heathrow. Qantas flight 9 from Perth, capital of Western Australia, landed at 5.02am after a flight that had lasted 17 hours and covered 9,050 miles.
The route took the aircraft over the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, the southern tip of India, Oman, the UAE, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
After a flight through the night, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made landfall over Foulness Island in Essex, and flew over north London and Berkshire before landing on the southern runway at Heathrow.
Previously, all Australia-UK flights had stopped at least once en route to refuel. But improved technology and fuel efficiency means the 787 can cover the ground between Perth and London with a full payload without the need to stop.
The first passenger to emerge was Robert Williamson, a mining executive from Perth who had travelled in business class. He told The Independent: “It was surprisingly good – above my expectation. I feel really good.”
Peter Robinson, a builder from Liverpool who now lives in Perth, flew in economy. He said the flight was “good, quicker than I thought”, but described the food as “ordinary”.
“There were cameras everywhere on the plane,” he said. “All the presenters from Perth TV are here.”
Four pilots operated the flight, with Captain Lisa Norman in command. She told The Independent: “This is absolutely the pinnacle of my career.
“No one has ever done this before. I’ve flown into Perth lots, and I’ve flown into London lots, but I’ve actually never joined the two dots together before.”
CNN’s business presenter, Richard Quest, emerged from the flight to say: “I think they’ve nailed it. They have made what could be an extremely unpleasant experience into something quite enjoyable.”
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas, said: “This is a game-changer. This is a historic moment for Australia, and historic for Qantas.”
He predicted that flights on the much longer link from London to Sydney will begin in 2022. “That’s when we think Boeing and Airbus will have an aircraft that can do the operation, and we’re working closely with them to get the aircraft there.”
Western Australia lost its direct link from the UK a decade ago, and regards the new nonstop flight as a strong tourism opportunity.
The state’s premier, Mark McGowan, said: “You’ve got great food, great wine, less expensive accommodation than the eastern states, and the opportunity for beaches, good climate and wonderful nature-based attractions.”
The first flight from the UK to Australia was in 1919, when Ross and Keith Smith won a prize of £10,000 for completing the journey in four weeks.
Qantas established the “Kangaroo Route” in 1947, when it required seven stops and took four days.
Test bookings made by The Independent for travel in April, low season on the route, show fares of £828 in economy, £2,732 in premium economy and £5,127 in business class.
The aircraft will stay on the ground at Heathrow for eight hours before returning to Perth.
British Airways says it has no plans to compete with Qantas on the route.
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