Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Australian carrier Qantas announced Thursday it will test new 19-hour routes from both London and New York City to Sydney this year, to see if it's a viable option to add to its schedule.The airline said three test flights will carry a small group of Qantas personnel in October, November and December. Some will wear devices to record their vital signs and researchers from the University of Sydney will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment to evaluate the flights' impacts on health, well-being and "body clock."
Qantas said the direct New York-to-Sydney flight will be the first in history for a commercial carrier -- and only the second from the British capital.
"Ultra-long haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and well-being of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said. "The key will be minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight."
If the carrier determines the long haul isn't too much, it could begin operating routes by 2022 between Sydney and the U.S. and British cities, which have long been key international gateways for the airline industry.
If successful, the Australian airline could operate regular non-stop flights from New York City and London to three destinations in Australia by 2022.
The flights, which are part of Qantas' "Project Sunrise," will operate repurposed Boeing 787s, officials said. Project Sunrise is an initiative to begin regular nonstop commercial flights to New York and London from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
"No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before," Joyce added. "But it's not a foregone conclusion. This is ultimately a business decision and the economics have to stack up."