Qantas has reported a 17% drop in underlying profit blaming higher fuel prices and foreign exchange impacts.

Underlying profit before tax for the full year was $1.30 billion impacted by a $614 million increase in fuel costs from higher oil prices and a further $154 million of foreign exchange impacts on non-fuel net expenditure.

The results were also impacted by a $92 million non-cash expense on provisions for items including employee leave entitlements, the carrier said.

The airline also announced it will operate three ultra long-haul flights to gather new data about inflight passenger and crew health and wellbeing.

The flights form part of planning for Project Sunrise – Qantas’ aim to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

The three flights over three months will use new Boeing 787-9s. Instead of flying empty from Seattle to Australia, the aircraft will simulate two Project Sunrise routes – London and New York to Sydney.

This will represent the world’s first flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney and only the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew.

Passengers will be fitted with wearable technology devices and take part in specific experiences at varying stages of the approximately 19 hour flights.

Scientists will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said: “Ultra-long haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them.

“For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights.

“Flying non-stop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right.”

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