Qantas has created aviation history after the maiden flight of a new non-stop regular service between Australia and the United Kingdom landed at London’s Heathrow airport.
Qantas Flight 9 (QF9) touched down at Heathrow’s Terminal Three at 5.03am local time on Sunday, just over 17 hours after setting off from Perth on Saturday night.
The route has been described as a “game-changer” for travellers, as Australia is now directly linked to the UK by air for the first time.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner completed the 14,498km journey to land slightly earlier than the scheduled arrival time 5.05am.
“This historic flight opens up a new era of travel,” Western Australian Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said in a statement on Sunday.
— Australian Aviation (@AusAviation) March 25, 2018
“For the first time, Europe and Australia have a direct air link, so instead of travelling through Asia or the Middle East, visitors can start their holiday in WA.
“Perth is now officially the western gateway to Europe and we are looking forward to increased numbers of visitors from Europe to experience Perth and our extraordinary state.”
The new route from the West Australian capital to London shaves several hours off the journey for those departing Perth.
The Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, tweeted on arrival in London: “A new era of travel and opportunities for Western Australia’s economy has officially begun.”
History made. ✈️
The @Qantas Dreamliner has landed in London, carrying more than 200 passengers. A new era of travel and opportunities for Western Australia’s economy has officially begun. pic.twitter.com/mlrHGV1h7X
— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) March 25, 2018
For travellers heading to Perth from Melbourne, however, the total time saved for the journey to Heathrow is only about one hour.
But travellers from London to Melbourne and vice versa are allowed one free stopover in Perth.
Convenience is also expected to be a drawcard, with passengers able to fly to Perth then embark on their long-haul journey from the same airport.
Previously, commuters needed to switch from the domestic airport to the separate international terminal.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who has described the Dreamliner as a “game changer”, said the airline expected to make a profit on the route from the very first flight, which hadn’t been seen in the industry for a long time.
He said the Qantas had also challenged Airbus and Boeing to produce an aircraft capable of flying direct to Heathrow and New York from Sydney and Melbourne.
“And we’re getting close,” Mr Joyce told reporters in Perth on Saturday.
“By the end of this year, we’ll know if both aircraft can do it.”
If both can manage the range, Qantas will call for tenders next year and place an order, with the aircraft likely to be ready by 2022.
“It’s not that far away and the opportunity for all of us in that is quite massive,” he said.