Qantas Announcing Brisbane To Chicago Flight Shortly (And More)

Filed Under: Qantas

This is an update to a post I wrote on June 3, 2019 (which can be found below). Qantas is expected to announce nonstop flights from Brisbane to Chicago and one other US destination at 1PM on Monday in Brisbane, which is in just a few hours.

My money is on the announcement being for Brisbane to both Chicago and San Francisco, as both of those routes had been hinted at in the past. However, in the past Qantas has also mentioned the possibility of Brisbane to Dallas and Seattle, so those can’t be ruled out (though I feel like if they flew to Seattle it would be out of Sydney, and not out of Brisbane).

I’ll be very curious to see what kind of frequencies we’re talking about, as well as what the launch dates are.

Anyone want to make any guesses ahead of the official announcement?

Earlier I wrote about how the joint venture between American & Qantas was conditionally approved today. This is something that the two airlines have been hoping to get approved for years now, so the fact that this finally came through is big news.

However, in order to justify this joint venture, they had to prove to the Department of Transportation that this would be in the best interest of consumers. As part of that, American and Qantas said that they’d launch up to three additional new routes between Australia and the US in the next two years, in addition to increasing capacity on existing routes.

While these routes have been rumored for quite a while, Qantas has now confirmed what they will be.

Qantas will launch nonstop flights from Brisbane to both Chicago and San Francisco in the next two years. They say they’ll do this once they’re given final approval from the DOT for the joint venture.

Qantas’ 787-9 business class

These two flights are pretty significant:

  • Qantas already flies from Melbourne and Sydney to San Francisco, so adding a third destination from the Bay Area is impressive; San Francisco is a huge market, and on top of that Qantas has a partnership with Alaska, which provides them feed to & from SFO
  • A Brisbane to Chicago flight would cover a distance of nearly 9,000 miles, and would be just about 100 miles shorter than Qantas’ Perth to London flight; this would be the world’s fourth longest flight

Both of these routes would be operated by 787s. Qantas currently has eight 787-9s in their fleet, with a further six to be delivered in the next couple of years. Presumably they’d need a couple of additional 787s to launch either of those routes, unless they shuffle around their current network.

You might be wondering why Qantas would operate their Chicago flight from Brisbane rather than Sydney. Well, the flight to Sydney would be about 330 miles longer, and at ~9,230 miles, that’s a stretch for the 787-9, especially with the headwinds we often see across the Pacific.

As far as additional routes go, in the past Qantas has talked about launching nonstop flights to Seattle. While that hasn’t been mentioned this time around, I imagine it’s something that’s on their radar.

Qantas’ 787-9 premium economy

Bottom line

While I’m generally against the expansion of joint ventures — especially in markets where there’s already not enough competition — we may see some good new routes and capacity increases come from this.

The question is whether Qantas would have launched these routes otherwise. There’s no denying that both American and Qantas have intentionally scaled back transpacific flights in order to make a compelling case to the DOT, so even if they saw a business case for either of these routes without a joint venture, they absolutely would have waited.

What do you make of Qantas launching Brisbane to Chicago & San Francisco flights?

  1. Interesting they chose Chicago over Dallas, since Dallas is 600 miles closer than BNE and offers more connections out of AA’s fortress hub.

  2. Such a shame that BNE is a PITA for int/dom connections, with either a train or cab-ride looming before or after a long sector. Split terminals are a terrible idea, and doing it at BNE was a big mistake.

  3. Qantas’s ceo was state saying that they’d fly to Chicago if they got ati, Seattle as plan b. This has been quoted on the record. Now that they’ll be doing Chicago, they probably won’t be doing Seattle.

  4. It is interesting that QF chose ORD and BNE as its city pair. Probably equipment limited their ability to go all the way to SYD. I speculate that this is probably to combat NZ (and UA) on its ORD service, which allows easy 1-stop service from ORD to major cities in Australia. There really can’t be that much of an advantage connecting on AA from the Midwest/Northeast US and Canada through ORD vs DFW. Seeing as most Australia bound traffic is typically to SYD (or MEL), a double connection would be required through ORD. Besides, there are only a handful of smaller cities AA serves through ORD that are not served through DFW. This is good for Chicago based travelers, as Southern Pacific flights will have competition. Also, QF occasionally releases business award space on BNE flights (definitely more than SYD and MEL) from the US.

  5. Their biggest “problem” is availability of planes, given the additional 789s arriving coincide with the 747s being retired. So there is actually not much room for additional new routes on QF metal given they will also need those 789s for at least JNB, SCL and likely HND services.

    I suspect AA will replace some of the existing LAX frequencies to MEL and BNE (reduced to daily QF 388 and 789, respectively), and potentially a new DFW service to MEL, therefore freeing up some QF 789 capacity. But Qantas have been extremely conservative with their longhaul fleet replacement, to keep capex to a minimum.

  6. Firstly , i can’t wait for QF to fly direct ex AUS to ORD …great city . QF have already indicated that they want to fly the A380 ex SYD to HND , to replace the 747 , the only restriction they have to do this is, is the availability of A380 slots due to restrictions at HND . Government negotiations to take place apparently .

  7. There’s already a lot of capacity between Australia and the U.S. Fares have been pretty low, especially in economy.

  8. @Pete there is a bus but point well taken. Given the terminal situation at ORD, connections are going to suck at both ends. At least it will probably depart from an AA terminal gate but arrivals will be into the pit of despair that is the ORD international terminal,

  9. My guess is that AA will switch its LAX-SYD back to a 77W, as originally operated ad move the 789 to fly DFW-MEL.

    Brisbane is targeted for a good reason – it is the home and base for Virgin Australia, who in a JV with Delta have been dropping the rates on Qantas for the last two years. This is retaliation. ORD is a similar action toward United, who’s been doing the same out of HOU. That’s where the extra DFW flight comes in too. I’m also thinking AA or QF may add a flight to HNL or even GUM. The government asked for extra capacity and as someone else had mentioned, QF has none to give, but AA has lots.

  10. @tda

    Really? I would *much* rather transit in Australia than the US.

    Immigration in the US maybe ok if you’re a US citizen, but for the rest of us the alternatives are almost always better. Especially if you can connect through a country that lets you stay airside rather than making you clear immigration even for a transit.

  11. If you’re a QF passenger and need assistance from AA over a missed connection or weather delay, good luck. AA staff couldn’t give a rat’s about helping. These alliances and codeshares are purely to benefit the airlines. Their so-called seemless travel partnership is pure BS.

  12. So we share access to the vast US market and money with Australian workers but none of the US workers fly the flight or get paid for the Agreement. Should be at least a 2 for 1 split in favor to the US worker, it’s our market they want access to. US workers getting the shaft again.

  13. @ TImothy A Huey

    Your egocentrism is staggering. A quick Google shows the number of US visitors to Australia as ~400,000 a year, whereas the number of Australian visitors to the US is ~1.4 million a year.

    On that basis, surely the revenue split should be at least 3:1 in favour of Australia?

  14. As imagining QF might add a second flight to DFW, MEL and SYD, using 787’s and eliminate the A380 into DFW. Possibility?

  15. @ Sebastian, four 789’s are BNE based and they’re allocated to HKG, 2x LAX and now SFO and ORD.

  16. @Pete, certainly not worse than SYD, I hate the Int-Dom transfer bus with a passion. MEL is the best ‘main’ airport for inter-terminal transfers in the East, but I suspect it’s that bit too far to do in one hit.

  17. Speaking as someone who frequently travels through BNE, more options are better, particularly if I can avoid LAX when flying to the US

  18. As an Australian living in NYC and returning every year to Brisbane, this could be pretty convenient.

  19. It’s a no brainer! Chicago’s metro area population of 9.5 million, and the fact that 70 million people live within 500 miles of it is reason enough! Qantas knows exactly what it’s doing. Furthermore, Air New Zealand is so successful on this route that they’re already expanding to 5x a week less than 6 months into the service. And that’s with Houston and other West Coast cities also with non-stop flights to Auckland. Chicago may fly under a lot of Australians’ radars, but it’s a major center of world commerce and a very important HQ city for Fortune 500 companies. Travelers will gain quick access to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Toronto, NYC from here. Not to mention the entire Midwest market. Very excited!!!

  20. Does anyone have an idea when ORD BNE could become a reality?

    Would end of 2019 be unrealistic?

    I travel between ORD and SYD all the time and coming home / leaving through BNE as a blessing.

  21. Qantas were given significant incentive to base the 787s in Brisbane by the Queensland Government.

  22. @AgentGerko Based solely on your own experience, of course.

    I once missed, through my own sheer stupidity, an AA flight from JFK-MIA, then MIA-LAX before my onward QF flight to MEL. AA staff at Kennedy rebooked me instead (at no cost whatsoever) on a flight out of La Guardia. Once in the lounge at LGA, the staff there decided of their own accord to change my routing to a direct one (LGA-LAX). I couldn’t have been happier!

    At the time – no elite status with EITHER airline whatsoever – just Qantas Club (which means bugger all to AA staff in terms of any special treatment). Don’t lump an entire airline’s staff into the “couldn’t give a stuff” basket mate; maybe you just don’t ever ask for anything nicely.

  23. This is fantastic news and really is one of the benefits of the 787 range and capabilities. Qantas will be very full of this route as it will connect to many American Airline destinations not currently served out of DFW (upstate NY, New England area as well as many Great Lakes cities).

    That said, I was really gunning for a direct Seattle service or better still, a direct Adelaide – USA service of any kind. Adelaide is still the only mainland state that has zero Qantas international flights.

  24. @geo

    With AAs config on the 789 I doubt they’ll launch DFW-MEL.Qf will most likely do it.

  25. @TimothyAHuey, I say amen that it’s QF flying the flight and not AA. I’ll take a friendly, hard-working Qantas crew over AA’s crabby, disinterested grandmothers any day of the week.

  26. I am based in Chicago (absolutely amazing city) and would love a direct to Aus. Already have used the direct to Auckland a few times.

    @james s. I’m a pretty frequent flier on American and once you get over the business of how Americans work the attendants on aa are actually pretty good.

  27. BTw I’m hoping they announce it and make awards available straight away. Need a flight home from Auckland in early jan. Btw air Nz seems to be making a lot more flights available for awards lately ditto qantas. Got three seats qantas Vancouver Aus biz and three seats lax Syd first in mid def. almost unheard of.

  28. @Pete

    There’s a train connection every 30 mins (not ideal) and a bus every 10 mins for inter-terminal connections. On paper that might not sound ideal, and I personally dislike inter-terminal buses from past experiences, but Brisbane does it right. It’s much better than Sydney, which is always packed to the rafters and takes longer. In comparison, the ride in Brisbane is positively serene. There’s really not that much to complain about.

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