The next time you feel antsy on a long flight, think
about how much longer your flight could be.
Qantas just took a big step closer to creating a regular non-stop
commercial flight that will last 20 hours.
Over the weekend, Qantas operated a special flight from
New York to Sydney that spent 19 hours 16 minutes in the air.
While technically the first non-commercial flight to take this long, the plane carried just 49 passengers and crew.
And pretty much everyone participated in a variety of experiments to see how such a long flight affects health, well-being and, no doubt, sanity.
Passengers on this flight were fitted with wearable technology devices that a variety of measurements during the flight.
And those devices ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness and the value of hosting exercise classes for passengers.
Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also
adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jetlag.
Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre are gathering and using data from this flight – and others – to monitor all sorts of things: sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess the log flight’s impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.
And Qantas says data from these experiments will be used help shape the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas’ ultra-long-haul flights in the future.
Most notably, they’re focusing on Project Sunrise, Qantas’ plan to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.
Before it decides to make these super-long Project Sunrise
flights permanent, Qantas will run two more research flights as part of its Project
Sunrise evaluations: London to Sydney in November and another New York to
Sydney in December.
Would you take a flight that lasts almost 20 hours?
The trial will apply to select international flights and include four steps in the passenger journey: automated check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding. In the future they may add facial recognition to mobile check-in and automated border processing.
Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said the trial is part of a broader focus on investing in technology to make the airport experience easier and more convenient for passengers.
“In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass – your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process.”
Qantas Chief Customer Officer Vanessa Hudson said the airline was focused on increasing the use of technology to drive innovation for customers.
“One of our core commitments at Qantas is to make travel as attractive, convenient and enjoyable as possible,” Hudson said.
Facial recognition is in use – on both a trial and everyday use – for various steps of the airport journey at an increasing number of airports around the world, including Singapore’s Changi Airport, which uses facial recognition for bag check-in, boarding and (for some passengers) immigration in Terminal 4 and Orlando International Airport, which recently announced its commitment to processing all arriving and departing international travelers with facial recognition technology.
You may remember the recent buzz about the design Airbus floated for putting sleeping berths in the cargo hold of an airplane as a way for economy class passengers to get some real rest during a long haul flight.
Qantas, which has challenged both Airbus and Boeing to build a plane it can use for ultra-long haul flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, likes that idea and has it on a list of ‘blue sky’ features included in a survey the airline is sending out to about 12,000 of its frequent flyers.
The survey is part of the airline’s “Project Sunrise” research into ultra-long haul flying and on the Qantas list are such “Would you like?” features as:
A stretch/exercise zone on board
A communal bar, dining or self-service café zone
A work & study section including work stations
“Change and refresh” stations
A creche? To me that describes Christmas nativity scenes, which seemed like an odd item to include on a long-haul flight. But when I looked up that word I discovered creche is also a British word for a nursery, or day care center.
And on a long-haul flight – and even many short ones – I think most any traveler would vote for that!