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I flew on Qantas' nonstop flight New York to Sydney — here's what it was like

Business Insider Logo By David Slotnick of Business Insider | Slide 1 of 70: 
  Qantas just completed the first nonstop flight between New
  York and Sydney, designated "Project Sunrise," and Business
  Insider was on board.
  
  The flight - which lasted 19 hours and 16 minutes and covered
  almost 10,000 miles - was a research flight, 
    as Qantas staff and scientists studied how to help passengers
    and crew stay adequately comfortable and rested on an
    ultra-long-haul flight.
  
  Researchers closely monitored pilots and flight attendants
  and tested a new cabin-service flow meant to help minimize jet
  lag.
  
  It was a fascinating and enlightening experience, and it left
  me feeling great for a morning in Sydney. Read on to see what it
  was like to be on board this first test flight.
  
  
    Visit
    Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
  

  I've just spent a day in the air.

  No, not just a day traveling, heading to airports, dealing with
  buses and terminals, and making connections. But nearly a full
  day in a pressured metal tube alternating between roughly 34,000
  and 42,000 feet above the Earth, most of that above the Pacific
  Ocean.

  The Australian airline Qantas ran a test flight for its "Project
  Sunrise" initiative, a program to launch regular commercial
  service from Sydney to New York and Sydney to London.

  The flights, at about 9,900 and 10,500 nautical miles, represent
  the farthest - and the longest, in terms of time - nonstop
  flights today. While a nonstop flight from London to Sydney has
  been achieved once, 30 years ago, it hardly counts: It was flown
  with an empty 747 that had no seats, and it barely had enough
  fuel to make it. The New York-Sydney route had never been done
  without a stop in Los Angeles.

  When it landed, the flight, designated QF7879, became the longest
  commercial flight in the world, surpassing Singapore Airlines'
  regular commercial service between Singapore and New York, though
  next month's test of the London-Sydney flight is set to surpass
  this one.

  Airplanes and airlines are more technically advanced now than
  ever before, with better fuel efficiency, longer ranges, and
  computer-aided logistical planning. But as some flights get
  longer, the question is whether passengers and flight crews can
  tolerate more hours in the air without a layover to break things
  up.

  Qantas used this flight - and plans to do the same for the London
  route - to research how pilots, cabin crews, and passengers cope
  with the long flight. In particular, data gathered from
  monitoring the pilots and flight attendants will be used to help
  Qantas make a case to Australian aviation regulators that it's
  safe to have crews work in shifts for potentially 20 hours or
  more.

  The airline also tested a redesigned cabin service, meant to help
  passengers minimize the effects of jet lag as they cross 15 time
  zones, and reduce the magnitude with which an ultra-long-haul
  flight can exacerbate those symptoms. Cabin lighting, meal
  services, and food options were tailored to help passengers and
  crew either feel more awake or be more attuned to nighttime.

  This flight also doubled as a delivery of a new Boeing 787-9 from
  Boeing's Seattle plant. There were only 10 crew members,
  including four on-duty pilots, and 40 passengers, including
  several Qantas frequent flyers participating in the research
  study, off-duty Qantas employees, researchers, and journalists,
  including this reporter.

  The flight with a full load of passengers and cargo is not
  currently possible, as the heavier load would reduce the plane's
  fuel range.

  Two planes in development from Airbus and Boeing would be capable
  of flying these routes. Qantas will decide by the end of 2019
  which one it will use, and it expects to start commercial service
  as early as 2023, said Alan Joyce, Qantas' CEO. The airline had
  previously hoped to launch service by 2022.

  Because of the low passenger load, each person was allocated a
  business-class seat that could convert into a bed. Passengers
  were also encouraged to spend some time in the coach cabin to
  balance the plane.

  Though the flight would obviously be a different experience in
  coach with a full plane, Joyce discussed several options to make
  an ultra-long-haul flight in coach more comfortable.

  Regardless, the nearly 20-hour trek in business class, with the
  redesigned cabin service, was a notably different experience
  compared with other long-haul flights I've flown in premium
  cabins, including first and business class.

  Aside from that, it was truly a unique experience. After all,
  it's not every flight that you see an airline CEO doing
  calisthenics in his pajamas.

  While it's Business Insider's policy not to accept free travel,
  we could not pay for the New York-to-Sydney trip because it was
  classified as a "ferry flight," for which US Department of
  Transportation regulations prevent the airline from accepting
  money for fares. Business Insider did pay for the return flight
  with the airline.

  From takeoff to landing, plus before and after, here's what the
  19-hour-and-16-minute flight was like.

I've just spent a day in the air.

No, not just a day traveling, heading to airports, dealing with buses and terminals, and making connections. But nearly a full day in a pressured metal tube alternating between roughly 34,000 and 42,000 feet above the Earth, most of that above the Pacific Ocean.

The Australian airline Qantas ran a test flight for its "Project Sunrise" initiative, a program to launch regular commercial service from Sydney to New York and Sydney to London.

The flights, at about 9,900 and 10,500 nautical miles, represent the farthest - and the longest, in terms of time - nonstop flights today. While a nonstop flight from London to Sydney has been achieved once, 30 years ago, it hardly counts: It was flown with an empty 747 that had no seats, and it barely had enough fuel to make it. The New York-Sydney route had never been done without a stop in Los Angeles.

When it landed, the flight, designated QF7879, became the longest commercial flight in the world, surpassing Singapore Airlines' regular commercial service between Singapore and New York, though next month's test of the London-Sydney flight is set to surpass this one.

Airplanes and airlines are more technically advanced now than ever before, with better fuel efficiency, longer ranges, and computer-aided logistical planning. But as some flights get longer, the question is whether passengers and flight crews can tolerate more hours in the air without a layover to break things up.

Qantas used this flight - and plans to do the same for the London route - to research how pilots, cabin crews, and passengers cope with the long flight. In particular, data gathered from monitoring the pilots and flight attendants will be used to help Qantas make a case to Australian aviation regulators that it's safe to have crews work in shifts for potentially 20 hours or more.

The airline also tested a redesigned cabin service, meant to help passengers minimize the effects of jet lag as they cross 15 time zones, and reduce the magnitude with which an ultra-long-haul flight can exacerbate those symptoms. Cabin lighting, meal services, and food options were tailored to help passengers and crew either feel more awake or be more attuned to nighttime.

This flight also doubled as a delivery of a new Boeing 787-9 from Boeing's Seattle plant. There were only 10 crew members, including four on-duty pilots, and 40 passengers, including several Qantas frequent flyers participating in the research study, off-duty Qantas employees, researchers, and journalists, including this reporter.

The flight with a full load of passengers and cargo is not currently possible, as the heavier load would reduce the plane's fuel range.

Two planes in development from Airbus and Boeing would be capable of flying these routes. Qantas will decide by the end of 2019 which one it will use, and it expects to start commercial service as early as 2023, said Alan Joyce, Qantas' CEO. The airline had previously hoped to launch service by 2022.

Because of the low passenger load, each person was allocated a business-class seat that could convert into a bed. Passengers were also encouraged to spend some time in the coach cabin to balance the plane.

Though the flight would obviously be a different experience in coach with a full plane, Joyce discussed several options to make an ultra-long-haul flight in coach more comfortable.

Regardless, the nearly 20-hour trek in business class, with the redesigned cabin service, was a notably different experience compared with other long-haul flights I've flown in premium cabins, including first and business class.

Aside from that, it was truly a unique experience. After all, it's not every flight that you see an airline CEO doing calisthenics in his pajamas.

While it's Business Insider's policy not to accept free travel, we could not pay for the New York-to-Sydney trip because it was classified as a "ferry flight," for which US Department of Transportation regulations prevent the airline from accepting money for fares. Business Insider did pay for the return flight with the airline.

From takeoff to landing, plus before and after, here's what the 19-hour-and-16-minute flight was like.

© David Slotnick/Business Insider

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