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Plans to install bunk beds and other comforts in unused cargo space have been thrown out but Qantas has promised to give all passengers on any of its new ultra-long-haul flights an exercise area to make the 20-hour-plus journeys more bearable.

Delivering an update on Project Sunrise, Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said a decision on what aircraft would be used on the flights would be made by the end of the year.

The airline is considering the Boeing 777X and Airbus’s A350ULR to operate on routes such as Sydney-London, Melbourne-London and Sydney-New York from 2023.

Mr Joyce said the baggage hold was unsuitable for facilities such as bunk beds and a children’s play area, but an area would be set aside in the cabin for exercise and hydration.

“Some airlines are going for bars, we’re going for health and wellbeing,” Mr Joyce said.

“If you want a drink you can still have an Australian wine or beer in your seat but if you want to work off calories you can go to the ‘fourth zone’ and stretch.”

The aircraft was also likely to be the first operated by Qantas on international routes to offer high-speed Wi-Fi.

Mr Joyce said senior executives from both manufacturers had been asked to submit their best and final offers by August.

“They’re very keen and very eager,” Mr Joyce said in Seoul, where he was attending the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting.

“We’ve completed the evaluation process and we believe both aircraft can do the missions, although neither with the full payload. But there’s enough, we think, to make it commercially viable if the other parts of the business case get there.”

Those “other parts” include the price of the aircraft and various guarantees from the manufacturers in relation to fuel burn and maintenance costs.

Mr Joyce said Qantas was negotiating with pilots on a labour contract to allow them to operate on flights in excess of 20 hours. In return for efficiencies, pilots would get greater opportunity for promotion.

“If we don’t get the right business case we will not do it,” said Mr Joyce, who indicated he was prepared to be ruthless.

American Airlines’ Asia-­Pacific managing director Russ Fortson said other carriers were watching Project Sunrise closely.

“Qantas is a pioneer in ultra-long-haul travel, and I think if anybody can do it, Qantas can,” Mr Fortson said.

“There’ll be a lot to be learned from that and how that fits with us. We need to wait and see.”

Qantas and American Airlines hope to soon cement their partnership with approval for a joint venture which will smooth the path for more routes.

Mr Joyce said Qantas would operate two, and American Airlines one, with the likely routes being Brisbane-Chicago, Brisbane-Seattle and Brisbane-Dallas Fort Worth.