Health and wellness, mindfulness and a separation of experience. That’s what travellers want in an ultra long haul flight. But what does that mean for luxury fliers?
Qantas’ inaugural Perth to London non-stop flight took off in March 2018. At just over 17 hours it cuts three hours off a one-stop journey. And the airline has plans for even longer flights by 2022 – 20 hours and 20 minutes from the east coast of Australia to London and 18 hours from the east coast to New York.
Experts believe these ultra long haul flights will appeal to business travellers (who are looking to get from point A to point B while only boarding once) as well as premium leisure travellers who will be able to fly extra distances in more comfort. In fact, according to John Grant, senior analyst at air travel intelligence firm OAG, airlines are changing the configuration on these flights and including more space for premium travellers.
Singapore Airlines launched its record breaking non-stop Singapore to New York flight in late 2018, a 6,700km, 19 hour marathon. And it’s squarely aimed at the luxury traveller – the flight uses the new Airbus A350-900 ULR (ultra long range) aircraft configured with only business and premium economy seating. “The two-class configuration … was a business consideration to meet market demand,” Singapore Airlines told AFP at the time. “This configuration will also provide our customers with greater comfort on non-stop flights.”
However, even as technology and aircraft developments make longer flights possible, ultra long haul is likely to remain a niche sector. Low cost carriers won’t be interested in entering the market as they can’t offer the level of comfort passengers require for these extended times.
But how does the onboard experience need to change to ensure passenger satisfaction on an ultra long haul flight?
Qantas conducted extensive passenger research on its new flights, in conjunction with the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. The top five suggestions were: providing ‘sense of separation’ experiences (like virtual reality relaxation, mindfulness zones and broader entertainment); space for stretching or gentle movement; exercise zones (potentially including exercise bikes or rowing machines); refreshment stations with drinks and snacks; and an in-flight café. That means ultra long haul fliers could be the first to access premium perks not available on other flights.
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