After 17 hours, the first nonstop flight from Australia to U.K. touches down

The mere thought of sitting on a plane for 17 hours in a row may have your butt cheeks twitching in horror, but that’s precisely what 230 passengers have just done after taking the first nonstop commercial flight from Australia to the United Kingdom.

Qantas Flight QF9 — a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner — landed at London’s Heathrow airport early Sunday morning local time after a 9,240-mile (14,875-kilometer) journey from the western Australian city of Perth. The flight took a body-creaking 17 hours and 6 minutes and marks the first direct commercial flight between Australia and Europe.

“This is a truly historic flight that opens up a new era of travel,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce commented . “The response to the flight has been amazing, both for the attention it’s received since we announced it and the bookings we’ve seen coming in.”

The new flight joins an elite club of ultra-long-haul services that take 17 hours or more to complete, made possible by fuel-efficient planes on routes where demand makes them a viable option for carriers.

Passengers disembarking the plane in London seemed pretty upbeat about the experience, according to the BBC, with one couple saying they felt “as fresh as daisies,” and another describing the 17-hour journey as “very comfortable.”

qantas direct flight australia uk dreamliner
Qantas’ Dreamliner at the start of its historic flight to London.

The new service between the two countries allows passengers to avoid a time-consuming pit stop in Singapore, Dubai, or one of the other midway hubs that usually split the lengthy flight. But it does mean placing yourself in a confined space with hundreds of other people for more than 17 hours. And if the person in the seat behind really loves tapping that touchscreen as they explore the full range of in-flight entertainment offerings, then you’re in for one helluva ride. (By the way, DT has some great tips for coping with long-haul flights.)

Keen to allay fears that 17 hours would be just too long to park yourself on a plane, Joyce said the plane serving the new route is “hands-down the most comfortable aircraft that Qantas has ever put in the sky.”

The CEO said Boeing designed the Dreamliner “with features to reduce jet lag, turbulence, and noise, [together with] more space in every class as well as bigger entertainment screens and more personal storage.”

Qantas also worked with the University of Sydney to create a menu designed to reduce the effects of jet lag following the journey, and conducted tests to find the best serving times to help ensure the most comfortable flight experience.

The new route is certainly a far cry from Qantas’ debut service between Australia and the U.K. that launched in 1947. Flying aboard a Lockheed Constellation aircraft that carried just 29 passengers, the trip took four days and an incredible seven stops. Those numerous “hops” earned the journey the nickname by which it’s still known today: The Kangaroo Route.

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