Qantas to test non-stop 20 hour Sydney to London and New York flights this year

The Qantas dream of non-stop flights from Sydney to London has moved a step closer to reality as airline has announced it will test the route, along with non-stop between Sydney and New York, later this year.

The Australian airline will receive deliveries of 787-9 aircraft in October, November and December and will use these flights to conduct research about inflight passenger and crew health and wellbeing while onboard.

Only 40 passengers will be onboard the test flights, making for a lighter plane which will allow it to go further.

It will be the first time in history a commercial airliner has flown non-stop between New York and Sydney, and only the second time an airliner has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Those onboard will mostly be Qantas employees fitted with wearable technology devices. They'll be asked to carry out specific tasks at varying stages of the flights. 

Scientists and medical experts will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment usage to assess impact on health, wellbeing and their body clock.

Pilots will wear a special device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness.  

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the flights are the perfect opportunity for researchers to collect real-time data.

"For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it's about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights," he said.

"Flying non-stop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we're determined to do all the groundwork to get this right."

The data collected will also be shared with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to help in designing regulations for ultra-long haul flights.

Although the test flights will be conducted using 787-9 aircraft, there are two aircraft types Qantas is deciding between for when its 'Project Sunrise' becomes a reality - the Boeing 777X and the A350, from rival manufacturer Airbus.

A decision on which aircraft the airline will purchase is expected before Christmas.