21-Hour Flights Edge Closer

Published: 05-13-2019
How long are you willing to fly?

When you think about long flights, you probably think about 14 hours, at most. After all, anything beyond that can be dangerous due to pilot fatigue. Nevertheless, Qantas Airways is seeking to shatter that presumption by about 7 hours.

Passengers love non-stop flights, and they’re willing to pay in order to avoid layovers. Qantas Airways sees that market demand and now hopes to open up a 21-hour route from Sydney, Australia, to London, UK.

But, to accomplish their goal, Qantas needs to accomplish two tasks. Convince the aviation regulator in Australia to allow 21-hour flights. And gain the support of pilots like you.

Beyond the Profits

Being cooped up in the cabin for an extended amount of time can be irksome. For both passengers and pilots. But reports from Qantas’s 17-hour flights have all been positive.

According to Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO, “There were a lot of expectations around this flight, both within Qantas and the broader community, and frankly it’s exceeded them. Almost every flight is full and it turned a profit almost immediately, which is rare for new services because they have start-up costs and it normally takes time to build demand”.

The route, from Perth to London, has been underway for over a year now. During that time, speed records were broken and yoga was done 30,000 feet above us. Although we’re unsure as to whether or not the pilots took part in the yoga sessions, we’ve not heard any complaints from the four pilots flying the 17-hour flights.

What Pilots Face

For pilots, long flights lead to fatigue more times than not. To combat this, preventative measures need to be in place. According to Peter Gibson, spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the following items would greatly reduce fatigue risk.

  • Rotating Pilots and Co-Pilots
  • A place for crew to sleep
  • Reducing pre and post-flight responsibilities
  • Giving pilots a ride home after a flight

As you can see, the requests are definitely reasonable. Matter of fact, Singapore Airlines has 2 pilots and 2 co-pilots, with beds, on their 19-hour flight, which is currently the world’s longest.

Qantas, on the other hand, has only one pilot and 2 co-pilots, who are only allowed to fly during cruising altitudes. The lack of a second pilot may be due to expenses.

According to Brad Hodson, Qantas captain and union official who has flown on the 17-hour flight, "I think having another qualified pilot who could sit in the seat for take-off and landing would ameliorate a lot of the issues". He went on to say "But Qantas won't like that because it costs money."

To-date, the official number of pilots and co-pilots has not been determined. Nevertheless, if pilot’s needs are met on the 21-hour flight, this could be a potential new frontier. Imagine flying for 11-hours and getting paid to go to bed after. That could be nice.

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