Ultra-long-haul flights are the future of aviation but what does that mean for airline passengers? Qantas has conducted some new research as it prepares to conquer the final frontier of global commercial air travel, with world first non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to New York and London to start from 2022.
In conjunction with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre, Project Sunrise as it has been dubbed, has found long-haul fliers want more wellness options such as stationary exercise bikes, spaces to stretch or socialise, plus virtual reality relaxation and entertainment experiences to zone out on the trip.
Qantas International CEO, Alison Webster, said the new research is showing increased interest towards physical wellbeing, state of mind and personal time and space. “Customer feedback from the Perth to London flight has exceeded expectations,” said Ms Webster. Customers told Project Sunrise researchers they want airlines to provide “sense of separation” experiences with either virtual reality relaxation zones, audio mindfulness experiences, or through the broader inflight entertainment with wireless, noise-cancelling headsets.
Also on the wish list was more innovative cabin designs with both seat and non-seat spaces for a broad range of traveller needs including comfort, sleep, dining, entertainment and state of mind. Spaces to do gentle exercise or stretches was a popular request. An inflight cafe was suggested, offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and snacks including dips with vegetable sticks as well as “treat foods”.
Health and wellness were the top trends coming through all research, with a strong focus on mindfulness. “Our job now is to determine where the most demand is and create this cabin in a way that makes it both affordable for customers and commercially viable for the airline. Everything is on the table and we are excited about what innovations may come from this research,” said Ms Webster.
Qantas industrial designer, David Caon, said their ultra-long-haul project is pushing not just the boundaries of distance, but also product innovation. “Customers are sharing some incredibly imaginative ideas, which is an exciting challenge and helps us to think outside of the box,” he said. “Bringing some of these concepts to life will involve an entire rethink around how to be clever about use of all cabin space and what is practically possible but it may well involve incorporating design elements never before seen on commercial aircraft.”