Could there be an opportunity for ultra-long-haul flights in an environment
Two months later, Qantas confirmed its purchase of 12 brand new Airbus aircraft capable of ultra-long distance flights, which makes possible nonstop flights between Sydney or Melbourne towards London and New York.
What’s the problem? Long-distance flights have to transport significantly more fuel, and consequently, there are fewer passengers on board, making them considerably less efficient.
Should the industry of aviation go towards this path, this will be a step backwards towards combating climate change. Although Qantas plans for the flights to be carbon-neutral but this would have to be accompanied by carbon offsets since there is no alternative at the moment.
As the world becomes more concerned about climate change, these flights will be scrutinized.
Qantas has announced the order of a dozen Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, which will provide the longest flights of all time. Bianca De Marchi/AAP
The most extreme flight comes with the cost of carbon.
For a long time, Qantas has hoped to overpower Australia’s distance tyranny and began ultra long-haul tests in 1989. These tests weren’t able to translate into regular flights; however, it left the door open to rival Singapore Airlines, which currently is the top two airline in the world for ultra-long flight routes.
Qantas is determined to change this. In 2025, Qantas’s Sydney-London nonstop flight will travel 17,800 km nonstop and become the longest flight in the world.
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While it might seem like a single flight would produce less emissions, the opposite is true.
Most the most effective flight (based on the amount of fuel consumed per kilometer) are those that run between 3000 and 5,000km, based on the type of aircraft. In contrast, nonstop ultra-long-haul flights generate more carbon emissions than two short flights with a stopover.
The reason is simple science. planes traveling over extremely long distances need to carry a lot of fuel, especially during the point of take-off, in order to cover more distant parts in the travel. With the new aircrafts, Qantas has placed an order for, it will take about 0.2kg for fuel in order to carry 1 kilo one thousand kilometers.
Due to the distance, this is not an efficient usage of fuel. In addition, the large fuel load also results in less space for passengers.
This produces a less favorable outcome in light of the measured amount of CO2 released per passenger kilometre. For example, a one-way flight that is nonstop from Auckland to Dubai 1419km generates 876kg of carbon dioxide per person within the economy category, while the same trip that includes a stopover in Singapore will result in 772kg. The exact emission rates could vary due to the flight path or the weight of the freight, as well as weather conditions, among other factors.
In other words, while an A350-900 can accommodate between 300 and 350 passengers, Singapore Airline’s current long-distance flights with aircraft like this can only accommodate only half of that, which is 161 passengers. Similar to that, the scheduled Qantas flights will have 238 passengers, ranging from 112 to fewer seats than the 172 seats Airbus recommends.
Like you’d expect from a flight, having fewer passengers means more expensive tickets and makes the flights more exclusive, which adds to the fact that the wealthy few have an exceptionally high carbon footprint.
Can long-haul be considered low carbon?
Marathon nonstop flights can be seen as a part of the path of a bigger transition towards a world with fewer emissions. If airlines want to be committed to reducing their industry’s increasing contribution to the carbon footprint of fossil fuels, They must pursue the development of alternatives to fuels and technology through programs such as that of the European Union’s Clean Sky.
These programs have proven the benefits of sustainable fuels and that new technologies are more suitable for shorter flights. Electric aircraft, for example, are now becoming feasible for short-haul flights in the near future. For instance, in Sydney, electric seaplanes will soon be entering the short-hop industry, and hybrid-electric technology is able to enable flights that span up to 1500 km, dependent on the advancements technological advancements in batteries.