Qantas (QF, Sydney Kingsford Smith) has delayed plans to order twelve A350-1000(ULR)s for its ultra-long-haul Project Sunrise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas Group Chief Executive Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller.

"We certainly won't be ordering aircraft for that this year, and we'll keep a review on when is the appropriate time, when has the market recovered, when is Qantas in a position to commit to more aircraft and more capital," he said.

The Australian carrier selected the A350 for its proposed services from Sydney Kingsford Smith and Melbourne Tullamarine to destinations such as London Heathrow and New York JFK in late 2019. It was initially due to formalise the order by the end of March, although it later asked Airbus to move the deadline to the end of 2020 due to market uncertainty.

Joyce underlined that while the current situation was too demanding to commit resources to Project Sunrise, Qantas still believed in its potential.

"We do think there is huge potential for Project Sunrise but the time is not right now, given the impact that COVID-19 has had on world travel. But we do think there's still a good business case for it, and a good opportunity," he said.

Under its original schedule, Qantas hoped to launch Project Sunrise flights in 2023.

Meanwhile, in a trading update, Qantas said it had short-term liquidity of AUD3.5 billion Australian dollars (USD2.3 billion). It underlined that this would be sufficient to respond to "a range of recovery scenarios, including one where the current trading conditions persist until at least December 2021". Qantas recently secured an additional AUD550 million (USD355 million) against three of its owned B787-9s and has a further AUD2.7 billion (USD1.7 billion) in unencumbered assets.