Airline hails world record achievement after 19-hour New York-to-Sydney flight carrying 50 passengers and crew

Qantas flight QF7870 made history at 7.43 am on Sunday as it touched down at Sydney airport, completing the world record for the longest ever commercial flight. The flight took off from JFK airport, New York, at 9.27 pm on Friday night and along the way, it left a carbon footprint equivalent to burning over 700 barrels of oil. The flight consisted of just 49 people in total which included six pilots, six members of cabin crew including the chef, some reports, frequent flyers and the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, who claimed he was never going to miss out on this landmark. The ultimate goal of the long flight was to test whether passengers can ensure the mental and physical effects of extremely long air journeys.

The reason the flight was restricted to limited number of passengers was to ensure that the plane was light enough to complete the whole journey to Australia on a single tank of fuel. Strict restrictions were put into place in order to reduce the weight, including limiting passengers’ luggage and most of the bar stock. All the passengers were in business class, as the plane, loaded with 101 tons of jet fuel, took off. When asked about the resulting carbon dioxide emissions, a spokesman said that most of the energy footprint is a result of take off so technically, the emissions were less than that of a two-leg journey.  

The international civil aviation organization estimated that around 310 tons of carbon dioxide was produced which is equivalent to four full tankers of petrol or 718 barrels of oils, according to the EPA. The flight covered a total of 16,200 kms which is about 900 km further than the previous record of the flight between Singapore and New York.

The flight covered 16,200 kms (10,200 miles) – about 900km further than the current longest commercial flight between Singapore and New York. Joyce said upon landing in Sydney: “This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.

 “We know ultra-long-haul flights pose some extra challenges, but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way.”

The passengers on the flight were told to reset their watches to Sydney time as soon as they boarded, and were made to stay awake with the lights on for six hours. They were served a spicy soup and fish lunch designed to keep them up for a longer period of time and reduce jetlag. The chef has been preparing the meals on the flight for over three days.

As the flight flew over Las Vegas, Nevada, passengers were led from their business class seats to the empty economy cabin in a rendition of La Macarena designed to get the blood pumping around their bodies.

Pilots, passengers and crew were also subjected to a series of health and wellbeing checks designed to test the short-term and long-term effects of ultra-long-haul flying. All crew members wore activity monitors and completed sleep diaries and alertness logs during the flight, and in the two weeks leading up to the flight.

Qantas captain Sean Golding said in an interview, flying the plane from New York to Sydney was the highlight of his career. “The flight was very successful from two components,” he said. “The first one was the research prior to and during the flight and also the feat of distance – that flight last night was 16,200 kilometers. We were airborne for 19 hours and 16 minutes, and we landed here in Sydney with a comfortable 70 minutes of fuel.”

The QF7879 flight landed in Sydney a few minutes before the airline’s regular New York to Sydney service QF12, which stops in Los Angeles. QF12 had taken off from New York three hours before QF7879.