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Frequent Flyer: What is the ‘kangaroo route’?

The new 17-hour nonstop Qantas service between London and Perth is the latest super-long-haul flight to take airline passengers further, faster

Frequent Flyer: What is the ‘kangaroo route’?
Image: Getty

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That’s hopping mad! What is this?
With the launch of a non-stop link between London and Perth, the so-called ‘Kangaroo Route’ leaps into a new era of super-long-haul aviation. This is the first time Europe and Australasia have been connected by a direct commercial flight: a daily Qantas service between Heathrow and Perth that travels more than 9,000 miles in just over 17 hours — the result of long-held plans to revitalise the Kangaroo Route, which, when established in 1947, took four days and involved seven stops. A decade earlier, the route Down Under took almost two weeks and a total of 31 stops.

Quick and convenient but costly, right?
The new route is three hours faster than existing one-stop connections (on Qatar Airways via Doha and Emirates via Dubai) where passengers must stop to change planes or allow the aircraft to refuel. Passengers flying onwards to Melbourne will arrive an hour earlier than on the old route (via Dubai), thanks to a dedicated transit lounge at Perth. Some airline pundits have suggested that nonstop fares could be up to 40% more expensive. So far, however, inaugural fares are proving competitive enough for European carriers to drop their prices on Australian routes.

How is the super-long-haul hop possible?
Aboard fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Thanks to unique aerodynamics and lightweight composite materials, these mega planes consume less fuel than traditional aircraft of equivalent size: 92 tonnes or 110,000 litres of aviation fuel; some 20% less fuel per mile than traditional aircraft. This means they can travel further with less fuel without compromising on payload, such as passengers or cargo.

Great for the environment but what about the passenger experience?
Apart from getting you there more efficiently, these aircraft are also equipped with features to lower cabin noise and improve air quality, plus technology to reduce turbulence. Qantas planes also have larger windows thus mitigating claustrophobia. Lower cabin pressure, and lighting designed to fool one’s body clock into resetting should help ease jet lag, along with in-flight menus that are rich in carbohydrates and proteins to promote melatonin production (the body clock-regulating brain hormone).

Non-stop numbers: Heathrow-Perth, Qantas

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Hours in the air: 17

Capacity: 236 passengers

Distance travelled: 14,498km (9,009 miles)

Time zones crossed: 9

Meals served: Two complimentary meals, plus a snack cabinet for passengers to access at any point

Fuel consumed: 92 tonnes or 110,000 litres of aviation fuel

Fare: From £1,680 economy return, £3,147 premium economy, and £7,203 business class.

Published in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)