Qantas has today formally announced that they’ll launch flights from Brisbane to both Chicago and San Francisco by April 2020.
This doesn’t come as a surprise — a couple of weeks ago the US Department of Transportation tentatively approved the joint venture between American and Qantas, and as part of that the two airlines promised new routes. They’ve been hinting at these additional flights to Chicago and San Francisco.
Qantas’ new Brisbane to Chicago flight
By April 2020, Qantas will launch 4x weekly flights between Brisbane and Chicago using the Boeing 787-9. The flight is expected to go on sale in the coming weeks, as soon as the DOT formally approves the joint venture between American and Qantas.
The flight will cover a distance of nearly 9,000 miles, and will be just about 100 miles shorter than Qantas’ Perth to London flight. This will be the world’s fourth longest flight. It will be Qantas’ first flight to Chicago, though they’ll be joining Air New Zealand, which operates flights from Chicago to Auckland, also using the 787-9.
It’s not yet known if the planes used for this route will be taken from Qantas’ upcoming order of six Boeing 787-9s, or if they’ll simply be shuffling around capacity in order to make this route work with their existing 787-9s.
Qantas’ new Brisbane to San Francisco flight
By April 2020, Qantas will launch 3x weekly flights between Brisbane and San Francisco using the Boeing 787-9. The flight is expected to go on sale in the coming weeks, as soon as the DOT formally approves the joint venture between American and Qantas.
This flight will complement Qantas’ existing flights to San Francisco, as the airline already operates flights from both Melbourne and Sydney to San Francisco. Looking at the schedule for next April, they fly daily from Sydney and 4x weekly from Melbourne.
That means Qantas will have a total of 14x weekly flights between Australia and San Francisco.
However, this flight won’t actually be adding any capacity to the US, as Qantas will be reducing frequencies on their Brisbane to Los Angeles flight from 10x weekly to daily. In other words, Qantas is simply shifting capacity from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Qantas has a total of eight 787-9s in their fleet, and they have a further six on order.
Qantas will be using their Boeing 787-9s for both of these routes, which feature 236 seats. That’s a pretty sparse configuration (Air Canada has 298 seats on those planes, for example).
Qantas has 42 Vantage XL staggered business class seats on the 787-9, which are pretty good seats. While Qantas has great crews, I don’t otherwise find their soft product to be very good, though.
Then the 787-9s have 28 premium economy seats, in a 2-3-2 configuration.
Lastly in economy there are 166 seats, in a 3-3-3 configuration.
Is Qantas being honest?
While I’ll fully reserve judgment, I do have some concerns here with how Qantas is marketing these flights.
Part of the reason the DOT approved the joint venture between American and Qantas was because they believed it was in the best interest of the public. The airlines promised to add routes and capacity.
Qantas claims in their press release that these two new routes will add 170,000 additional seats across the Pacific every year, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Qantas will allegedly make the Brisbane to San Francisco route possible by shifting capacity from Los Angeles.
That’s a net capacity increase of zero, so it’s dishonest for them to suggest that shifting capacity is adding seats.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the Brisbane to Chicago flight, and if that is made possible thanks to new aircraft orders, or if Qantas will also simply be shifting capacity there.
American and Qantas did promise three new routes, so I’ll be curious if American adds capacity somewhere as well. Maybe they’ll be announcing a Los Angeles to Brisbane flight soon, or something?
If Qantas simply makes the Chicago flight possible by shifting US capacity, then I’ll seriously question how much “public benefit” there really is here.
It’s great to see Qantas adding more routes to the US, though as of now I’m skeptical about how much of an addition this really is. The San Francisco route is being made possible by shifting capacity from Los Angeles.
It remains to be seen if the Brisbane to Chicago flight will actually result in additional capacity, or if it will also represent a shift.
Now we’ll just have to wait for the announcement for the third new transpacific route, expected to be operated by American. Maybe a Los Angeles to Brisbane or Melbourne route is in the works?
What do you make of Qantas’ new routes from Brisbane to Chicago & San Francisco?