Fascinating Statistics About Qantas’ Longest Flight

Filed Under: Qantas

In March 2018, Qantas launched daily nonstop flights between Perth and London using the Boeing 787-9. At the time this was the world’s second longest flight, at just over 9,000 miles (Qatar’s Auckland to Doha flight was slightly longer).

However, within a few months both routes lost their titles, as in late 2018 Singapore Airlines resumed nonstop flights between Singapore and Newark using the A350-900ULR.

Qantas is now celebrating the one year anniversary of their Perth to London route, and has some interesting facts to share.

I was skeptical of Qantas’ Perth to London flight

When Qantas launched their Perth to London flight, I was skeptical. Previously much of the market share between Australia and Europe belonged to the Gulf carriers, which offered convenient one stop service, as well as several Asian carriers, which offered efficient routings via their hubs.

I couldn’t fully rationalize the Perth to London flight:

  • A majority of the demand for travel between Australia and Europe comes from people in Eastern Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, etc.), so for those people they’d be connecting once either way, regardless of whether they go through Perth, Asia, or a Gulf hub
  • In economy I’d go out of my way to avoid one of the world’s longest flights, especially on a 787-9 with nine abreast seating
  • Generally many people flying from Australia to London are connecting beyond London, and in those cases you’re going to get a more direct routing on a Gulf carrier, since you could fly from a major Australian gateway to just about any major city in Europe with just one stop, rather than potentially having to double connect using this routing (i.e. Sydney to Dubai to Dublin vs. Sydney to Perth to London to Dublin)
  • At the same time, I imagined there would be quite a bit of initial demand, purely due to the interest in such a long flight, and also the nationalistic pride that exists around Qantas

Qantas’ Perth to London flight has been a success

Qantas has released quite a few statistics regarding the new route. Some are actually significant and noteworthy (the economic growth this has created, average load factors, where passengers are going, etc.), and are some are just fun (the seat that watched the most TV, how much wine people drank, etc.).

So let’s look at some of the statistics. Most significantly:

  • The flight had an average load factor of 94%, and has carried 155,000 passengers
  • 59% of passengers on the flight have been Australian, 31% British, and 7% from other parts of Europe (so that represents 97% of passengers)
  • When it comes to outbound passengers, 50% are originating in Perth, 25% are coming from Melbourne, 7% from Sydney, 6% from Brisbane, and 4% from Adelaide (so that represents 92% of passengers)
  • Qantas claims the route has created 601 jobs in Western Australia, visitor expenditure has been $101 million, and the route has created $100 million free publicity (personally I don’t put too much weight into this, since I tend to think some of this math is a bit fuzzy)

Anyway, that’s the serious stuff, but then there’s the fun stuff as well:

  • From Perth to London, the average flight time was 17hr1min, while the fastest flight time was 16hr19min; from London to Perth, the average flight time was 16hr5min, while the fastest flight time was 15hr15min
  • Seat 56F watched the most TV, by more than 100 hours compared to any other seat
  • 367,000 glasses of wine have been served in the first year, so that’s an average of 2.4 glasses of wine per person
  • White wine was most popular in economy, while red wine was most popular in premium economy and business class
  • 80% of eligible passengers are doing the stretching class in the Perth transit lounge yoga studio

Bottom line

Qantas has long been a pretty conservative airline, so it’s great to see that this more creative route has been such a success. Like I said, I was skeptical, but it seems like it has worked out well for them. I guess part of that is also that the 787-9 makes routes like this economical.

Of all of the above statistics, the one I find most surprising is how many passengers are allegedly using the yoga studio. 80%, really?!? Furthermore, I’m not surprised that one seat watched 100 more hours of TV than any other, but rather I’m surprised that this is something they are able to track.

Next up we’ll have to see the results of Qantas’ “Project Sunrise,” as the airline hopes to launch nonstop flights from Melbourne/Sydney to London/New York, once they can secure the right plane for that.

What do you make of the results from Qantas’ first year flying Perth to London? Are there any statistics that surprise you?

Comments
  1. “Seat 56F watched the most TV, by more than 100 hours compared to any other seat”

    Great article, Ben.

    One now also wonders what other data the plane captures about each seat occupant’s use of the IFE.

  2. Ben, I think some of your assumptions early in the article are not quite right. For example, that the majority of traffic between Australia and London connects onwards. The data does not support this.

    I’m not surprised this route is a success: there’s significant energy and mining traffic between Perth and London (Rio Tinto, BHP etc). This is all very high yield traffic and yes, the nonstop option has hurt the ME3 significantly. SQ too, but they have a lot more network flexibility from PER.

    That said, QF has completely obliterated its MEL-LHR market it would seem. Don’t forget this flight replaced the A380 flight via DXB. Ouch!

  3. @ Anthony — I didn’t suggest that a majority of traffic connects onwards beyond London. I said a majority of demand from Australia to Europe is from the Eastern part of the country, and I said “many” people (not a majority) connect beyond London.

  4. I suppose you have to remember that established airlines like Qantas wouldn’t have launched a flight like this without research and clearly it’s paid off. Could we see them launch a second daily flight? Also sceptical but hopeful Virgin Atlantic will do this route.

  5. Have to say I was much less skeptical about this route given the strong economic connections that exist between London and Western Australia (there was an element of commenting about two places you didn’t really understand in your original post, Ben, I’m afraid to say). All QF really needs to do here is capture a decent percentage of the mining execs willing to pay a premium to fly direct and you’re looking at a very high yield on this route just from that, the fact that load factors are 94% despite the high pricing QF has been going for since launch is incredible. I think just how successful this has been has probably caught even QF off guard.

    What’s fairly clear from this is QF will probably be able to fill multiple LHR-SYD direct flights a day and cream off a lot of very high value J/F passengers if they can just find an aircraft capable of doing it, so this is surely giving EK something to think about given their ongoing partnership with QF.

  6. @Lucky I know while award availability and sales (better if you route through Athens etc) rare if the opportunity for a reasonable piece did arise to fly PER – LHR would you take it as you recently flew SFO – MEL if you did you could also review SQ 787-10 as well.

    Also I wonder if VS will launch this route.
    And personally I am not suprised by this as Perth has the highest number of UK migrant out of any Australian city and pair that in with the fact that this flight is great for parents with young kids it really is a recipe for profit

  7. @Lucky Perth has a massive amount of UK expats, probably even more than Melb/Syd despite being much smaller overall. This flight was always likely to be a success!

  8. 80% of the LOUNGE customers use the yoga facilities. That’s a subset of the total amount of passenger on the flight, not 80% of the total passengers on the flight. That’s a subtle but important difference. Details matter

  9. Great article. Just a minor correction: “At the time this was the world’s longest flight, at just over 9,000 miles.” It was the second longest, behind Qatar’s DOH-AKL flight.

  10. @ Jason — Hence the comment about 80% of “eligible” passengers, not just “80% of passengers.” And yes, I’m surprised that 80% of eligible passengers are doing yoga.

  11. I think I contributed about 28 hours of the IFE use on seat 56F. I flew that route twice (both in that seat) and tried to watch as many movies as I could.

  12. Still think it’s a weird assumption that ‘many passengers visiting london from australia are connecting onwards’ when as you then go on to say, any such itinerary would be a 2-stop one that no one would want to take.

    As you say, anyone going to dublin from Australia is not going to do so via london. So it follows that *not* many passengers who do fly to London from Australia are connecting onwards. Either before the introduction of this flight (where they’d be doing say Melbourne-Dubai-London-Dublin??) or after (where they’d be doing the route you describe).

    I don’t know. Just seems like a very weird assumption.

  13. 10% of Perths population, i.e 200,000 people, are from the U.K. and you say you were skeptical at first, Shows how much you know about demographics…

  14. @ Abidjan — I figured it would be a window seat that had the most time watching TV, since you figure those people are most “captive” in their seats. Interestingly 56F is an aisle, though, which surprised me.

  15. No human being has ever looked more sexually desirable as a result of saying “I told you so”, but I’m so old I no longer bother with such things, so… when it was announced I told you (and James, who was equally negative) that this flight would obviously work.

    There are the vfr demographics of London/Perth (and old people, unlike avgeeks, really, really love non-stop flights); and there is the terror that many Brits have of being in transit in a country where English is not the first language (so making Perth the transit point for other Oz destinations is attractive to them).

    And there’s the economic success of WA mining with corporate links to London.

    Plus for any Australians not in Sydney, Melbourne and maybe a couple of other cities, you might as well transit through Perth as through Sydney.

    Plus in Oz there’s a lot of brand loyalty to Qantas.

    I did the LON-PER flight in J. It was fine. But for my next Oz trip I’ll be flying Qsuites, which is just a much nicer product than Qantas.

  16. sorry Ben!! I just saw your last comment in the “bottom line” section and didnt notice the one earlier where you clearly said “eligible”. My bad!
    Keep up the good work – this is very interesting stuff from QF

  17. #seat56F The new movement into airplane seat privacy.

    Remember those cameras the airline told you it was disabled???
    Remember that airline manifest knows who is in 56F???
    Remember those USB charging port can also transmit data FROM your phone???
    Remember a guy named Chris Roberts who hacked a United 737 mid-flight???

    Maybe Delta is smarter than all of us by putting more IFEs and Doug Parker just missed the IFE bandwagon by removing them.

  18. I’m normally a fan of your work Ben, but in this case you just didn’t understand the reasons behind this route. In so many aspects it makes sense.

    As for the yoga, again you don’t understand it’s popularity here in Australia.

  19. Great performance but I can’t help thinking that this is also due to some capacity rationalisation from
    Qantas. Two A380s was way too much capacity to London and instead they have pretty much replaced one with the other.

    While Perth accounting for 50% is pretty significant I wonder what will happen once Project Sunrise takes shape. Apart from Sydney it makes way more sense for Qantas to fly non stop to London from Melbourne versus Perth.

    Between the Melbourne and Sydney non stops they can pretty much target the Eastern seaboard which makes me wonder will a Perth London nonstop be actually viable?

    They still have 50% of their passengers connecting from other destinations. I see Qantas cancelling the one stop Singapore routing for sure so the only way they can keep Perth is by banking on the fact that they will capture additional market share from other carriers operating on the Kangaroo routes.

    For other European routes however it may make sense for Qantas to hub at Perth. Ultimately, they can fly 787-9s in a more efficient and denser configuration on routes that do not have the same level of premium demand as the London routes.

  20. I’ve always thought your dismissal of this route was strange considering your published analysis of other routes seemingly always just focuses on the size of immigrant communities near the airport!

    ITST – Sydney has its own services to London which is what most of them will be using. The Melbourne service goes visa Perth which is why they make up such a big percentage.

  21. Wow, only 25% of passengers originate in Melbourne. Given that QF9/10 originates/terminates in Melbourne, and is QF’s “London” flight from there, that is a damning statistic. Especially when you consider that one in 5 Australians live in Melbourne, and it is only a few years before it regains it’s place as the city with the largest population.

    I guess they trained Melburnians well over the last 20 years to use other airlines by removing international services, or converting them to Jetstar. I’ve had seven return flights between London and Melbourne in the last 15 months, and I’ve only used QF on a single one-way trip. BTW on that trip, no one used the stretching room in the Perth transit lounge, so they must be getting 100% participation on other flights.

    However, I’m not surprised that the route is a success – not only do you have the mining giants that are listed on both the London and Australian Stock Exchanges to fill the business seats, but it would appear that nearly all of my neighbours in London have an Aunt / Uncle / Cousin who lives in Perth.

    Of course, it must feel like a warmer version of home for them. Western Australia threatens to secede from the Federation every 10 years or so when there is a mining boom, and some of their federal taxes aren’t spent within the state. Kind of similar to Brexit 😉

  22. Alan Joyce said in a press conference in Perth yesterday that this route was profitable within a very short time and has helped turn the while Aust/UK route performance around. QF are still talking about Per/Cdg.
    I never doubted the route would be popular and if and when “Project Sunrise” happens, the 787 will be a Perth terminator, as their is sufficient demand as a number of mining companies have offices in both Melbourne and Perth. The big question is whether they will drop Sin/Lhr.
    I haven’t met anyone who has flown the route who hasn’t raved about it.

  23. In the paper in Perth here that reported much of the same info, they reported that one man stayed in his business class suite the whole flight without a toilet break!

  24. An interesting read Ben. As an east coaster I have just flown one stop via Doha SYD to MAN as you are correct, PER to LHR isn’t any use to me and the cost of Qantas are high compared to the Middle East carriers. Will be even better when Qatar fly direct from BNE

  25. I suspect many people through it was easier connect in Australia rather than in a foreign country. Although PER international flights leave from a different terminal, the QF domestic – so you still need to take a bus between terminals to transfer (like SYD).

    Although I would have though the number connecting from SYD would be higher, but maybe SYD prefers the A380. I find the QF 789 J suite confining, so even J would be tough on that length of flight. I still prefer the A380.

    Although for those from Perth this is a big savings – not to fly to SYD / MEL and then the long flight back out the PER.

  26. Uh hello – why were you so skeptical as expected, Australia has long has historic ties with the UK and Perth has more British born residents than any other city in Australia not per capita but in total. Considering the size of Perth vs Sydney and also Perth has a very high average income vs other cities, has less competition and coupled with connector flights ie MEL-PER-LHR I’m not surprised at all. Apply some local context before making assumptions that it won’t work. Also Perth is the HQ of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – two of Australia’s largest companies both work strong ties and part tied to the UK.

  27. A few points to consider:

    QF halved the capacity between MEL and LHR by swapping out an A380 to a B787-9, so any claims of success need to be seen in the context of half the number of seats! (Even with the services to connect MEL-SIN to LHR on QF metal you end up on one A380 SIN-LHR (the one originating from SYD)).

    The data indicate that the service clearly has not been much of a success (arguably an able t failure) in attracting connecting traffic from any other Australian locations other than MEL. Given that the aircraft originates in MEL anyway and presumably many tickets originally sold for MEL-DXB-LHR would have been rebooked onto the MEL-PER-LHR , the obvious indication is that travellers are quite happy to fly to LHR or Europe one stop on any number of alternative options.

    This may not be surprising when you consider that for many Australian origins the PER option actually takes longer (CNS, DRW, BNE etc) or is similar for some others (SYD, MEL, etc).

    QF has potentially LOST market share by reducing capacity to LHR from Melbourne by 50% and overall by 25%, depending upon how much of that lost capacity has been taken up by codeshare on EK versus competitor airlines.

    Where that capacity take up has been onto EK, QF is increasing the passengers “outsourced” to EK, increasing downstream business risk in the event that the QF-EK alliance falters.

    The low number of Europeans using the service may indicate that the service is of little interest unless originating or travelling to the UK itself.

    QF may or may not have the functionality in its yield management systems to direct customer sales preferentially to QF9/10, effectively ensuring high yields at the potential expense of codeshare and other alternatives. This is similar to the QF booking system offering Jetstar sectors rather than the QF ones effectively propping up the low cost carrier and potentially earning more net revenue.

    QF9/10 is is niche product! Of the 41,570,000 international passenger movements in / out Australia accounting for 0.37%.

    Of the 4.5 million odd international movements in / out Perth about 3.4% (compared with around 14% for Singapore Airlines).

    [Aus Government DIRDC data for year end 2018 published March 2019].

    It is not clear whether the claimed capacity figures have been adjusted for the numbers of seats which potentially may need to be flown vacant to complete the sector non stop in certain conditions (there are reviewer reports of empty seats), which would artificially inflate the claimed yield.

    So long as QF continue to undermine their own good points by poor service (ridiculous long call wait times and unpopular catering) they won’t attain their potential in the face of fierce competition.

    QF is only publishing data to paint a positive picture – other data are available for a more penetrating analysis and meaningful debate…

  28. I think what Platty forgot to mention that QF increased capacity significantly on the MEL/SIN route and according to QF a significant number pax connect to the QF001 in SIN to LHR.

    QF009 via DXB carried a lot of connecting pax to EK services to Europe but as EK have reduced capacity out of MEL and PER, I am not sure if any one benefitted by QF’s UK changes.

    I travel with QF on very regular basis and dispute the catering remarks I think ex Australia it is significantly better than most airlines and the wine choice is top notch.

  29. I think the announcement of the new Qantas First lounge for Changi airport suggests that Qantas isn’t looking to get rid of the SIN/LHR route in the near future. I’d also suggest that if Qantas was able to secure more slots in to LHR they’d probably prefer to be utilising them for additional flights on QF metal rather than codeshare with EK (I believe they only have 2, with an additional one leased to BA though happy to be corrected)
    What I’m curious about is where the people who aren’t going to London via Singapore are ending up. An A380 and A330 daily from Melbourne, an A380 and A330 daily from Sydney, plus the daily A330 from Brisbane and the daily A330/738 from Perth is a lot of people!

  30. @ austline

    I’d disagree with you about the catering. I think it’s faddy and the portions are ludicrously small. Then again, I’m an old fart, not a millennial, so to me kale is a weed while okra is something you feed to animals rather than humans.

    Anyone who thinks Qantas’ catering is the best out of Australia has clearly never flown Qatar.

  31. I won’t disagree that QF does wine in J well, but I’m yet to speak to anyone who is happy with the current catering. It’s disgusting and the same menus repeat endlessly.

    If you’re happy with what QF is serving, SQ and QR will blow your mind!

  32. A number of you are taking about how ‘successful the route has been! How do you really know?
    The plane is averaging a 94% capacity. So what? This is still no indication of the route’s profitability! What was the average price of the ticket? What is the profit margin? Could this plane have been better utilized flying several shorter routes within the same 17 hour time frame?
    These were ‘fun facts’ with very little insight into whether the route bleeds money or makes money!

  33. @ SullyofDoha

    I guess I’m believing Qantas’ management when they tell us that this is now one of their most profitable routes. Seems difficult to argue with such a strong statement?

    Then again, I think accountants are all fantasists. I learned early in my career that “cash is a fact, everything else* is an opinion”.

    * Including “profit”

  34. “I don’t put too much weight into this, since I tend to think some of this math is a bit fuzzy” Spot on. Same hired companies doing economic analysis that okayed junk bonds. The highest satisfaction rating of any QANTAS economy flights is also puzzling. Methinks a lot of infrequent family reunion travellers and business travellers in economy able to claim QF points for the expensive travel. Now that Singapore has been returned as a QANTAS hub ~ its removal and the awful 737 QF metal to SIN sent Perth peeps to other airlines ~ my guess is in another year the real figures then may change.

  35. @ Austline

    Per my post…the MEL-SIN services connect with the SYD-SIN-LHR service (QF metal).

    The loss in capacity MEL to LHR is 50%.

    The loss in capacity MEL plus SYD to LHR is 25%.

    The capacity from MEL-SIN matters not when anybody who wants to go to LHR on QF metal via SIN has only one A380 originating from SYD to ride…(and must also do an extra stop in SYD if they want to do the journey in First).

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