Qantas is testing record-breaking, 19-hour flights from JFK to Sidney.
Although the direct flights substantially decrease total travel time, they stress passengers’ and crews’ physical limits. In order to convince regulators that the flights are safe, Qantas is assessing the impact of extended duty times on its pilots and taking steps to minimize jet lag. The commercial viability of this technological breakthrough will depend on people’s tolerance for discomfort.
Video Spotlight: Fighting Jet Lag on a 19-Hour Flight
This post is based on the NBCnews.com article, Doing the ‘Macarena’ at 2 a.m. on Qantas’ Record-Breaking 19-Hour Flight, by T. Costello, October 21, 2019, and the YouTube video, What a 19-Hour Nonstop Flight Can Teach Us About Jet Lag, by the Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2019. Image source: kasto/123RF/Matej Kastelic.
1. For passengers, what are the advantages and disadvantages of taking the 19-hour flight?
Guidance: The advantages include decreased travel time with no layovers, more comfortable seating, larger windows, and pleasant ambient lighting in the Boeing 777x or Airbus A350-1000 planes that will be used for these flights. The disadvantages include physical discomfort and health risks from dehydration and limited movement, jet lag, safety risks due to crew fatigue, and higher ticket prices.
2. What potential problems does the crew face? How can they be alleviated?
Guidance: There will be two teams of pilots on board. Not only will the pilots have extended duty times, but they will also have limited opportunities for rest and exercise. Although the article does not mention flight attendants, they will have to work longer hours with additional food service and cleaning duties. They will also have to deal with passengers growing more irritable and demanding as time passes. To minimize these challenges, the crew should have several days off before and after each long flight. They should also have spacious and comfortable sleep areas. Their meals should be light and nutritious.
3. The Concorde flew passengers from Paris to New York at supersonic speed but turned out to be a commercial failure. Do you foresee a similar fate for the Qantas 19-hour flights?
Guidance: A flight on the Concorde was a luxurious experience, but the round trip ticket price was $7,995 ($12,500 in 2018 dollars). A round-trip, business class ticket on the Singapore Airlines 19-hour flight from Newark to Singapore is approximately $5,100. Qantas prices for the long flight will have to be competitive. Therefore, it is unlikely that pricing will be a major obstacle to the success of this travel option. However, the challenge for Qantas will be to offer an experience superior to that on flights with layovers to compensate for the extra cost and added discomfort.