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An Astounding But Brutal Flight

A marathon flight in the most technologically advanced plane on Earth. It’s coming!

Australian airline company Qantas has a plan that might give me nightmares. The Aussies are aiming to open up a new flight from Sydney to London with a soul-crushing travel time of 20 hours.

The goal is to launch the new route in 2022. The only problem is there isn’t a plane out there that can manage that trip and meets Qantas’ requirements of carrying 300 passengers, luggage, and extra fuel to handle unexpected issues. So, company CEO Alan Joyce solicited the two largest airplane manufacturers in the world, Boeing and Airbus SE, to develop new plane designs and present their bids. Both builders have submitted their proposals, and Qantas believes each company holds the ability to meet their needs.

Called “Project Sunrise”, the Sydney-London flight would exceed the current longest flight by Qatar Airlines from Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand, and the soon-to-be longest flight by Singapore Airlines that will take 19 hours and travel from Singapore to New York starting on Oct.11.

If Sydney-London proves its viability, then Qantas could add more such marathon routes, linking Australia directly to North and South America, Europe, and even Africa.

A flight in the neighborhood of 20 hours is brutally long. I am certain that some people will be thrilled for this new route, and that’s great. I just don’t know that I would want to be in a plane that long.

There is something to be said for lay-overs. I’m not claustrophobic, but even I start getting cabin fever at the 12 or 13 hour mark. Having personally travelled on multiple 14-hour flights, I can say that I have learned the value of a well-placed lay-over. Sometimes, it is nice to have a stop off to stretch your legs. In the course of 20+ hour long trips, lay-overs don’t feel nearly as bad as when flying a few hours from Chicago to Miami.

Not only is such a long trip boring and grueling, but being confined in a small area and sitting for so long can also be a health issue. Blood clots and pulmonary embolisms are a real risk on such long-haul flights, especially for older individuals.

Qantas evidently agrees with these concerns, because some of the brainstorming around “Project Sunrise” has included ideas to deal with some of these issues.

Qantas and the manufacturers are dreaming up cabin interiors geared toward surviving such marathon flights. There’s scope to incorporate bunks, child-care facilities and even somewhere to work out, Joyce said.

“We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box,” he said. “Would you have the space used for other activities — exercise, bar, creche, sleeping areas and berths? Boeing and Airbus have been actually quite creative in coming up with ideas.”

Okay. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider. That plane is sounding a little more awesome. As a gym buff, I hope there’s a squat rack in there. That would instantly make it more of a gym than any Plant Fitness.

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