January 28, 2019 / 1:35 AM / 5 months ago

Qantas customers request exercise bikes, virtual reality for 20-hour flights

FILE PHOTO: Workers can be seen near Qantas Airways' Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the tarmac at Adelaide Airport, Australia, Aug. 22, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd on Monday said customers were requesting in-flight innovations such as exercise bikes and virtual reality relaxation to pass the time on proposed 20-hour non-stop flights from Sydney to London.

The airline expects to order Airbus SE A350 or Boeing Co 777X jets capable of flying the world’s longest-ever commercial route later this year, with the first services starting in 2022.

Focus group research as well as customer surveys of those who have flown on its 17-hour non-stop route from Perth to London have found health and wellness are the top trends, Qantas said in a statement.

Passenger suggestions include spaces for gentle exercise, providing wireless noise-cancelling headsets and installing an in-flight cafe with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks, the airline said.

“Customers are sharing some incredibly imaginative ideas, which is an exciting challenge and helps us to think outside of the box to redefine the ultra-long haul experience,” Qantas Industrial Designer David Caon said.

For its Perth-London flights, which began last year, Qantas offers 15-minute stretch classes at its Perth transit lounge prior to and following the flight, with the airline reporting a take-up rate of 80 percent. The flight menu and cabin lighting are also designed to aid the body clock.

Rival Singapore Airlines Ltd hired wellness brand Canyon Ranch to design healthy meals and guided stretching exercises through its in-flight entertainment system when it resumed near-19 hour flights from Singapore to New York last year after a five-year hiatus.

But neither carrier has set aside dedicated cabin space for exercise or lounging on its current ultra-long haul flights.

Qantas International Chief Executive Alison Webster said the airline would examine customer requests for Sydney-London services and design the cabin in a way that made it “both affordable for customers and commercially viable for the airline”.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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