Qantas’ New San Francisco To Melbourne Flight Is Bookable (And Has Award Space!)

Filed Under: Awards, Qantas

In mid-December we learned that Qantas would be adding flights between San Francisco and Melbourne as of late 2018. This flight complements their existing service between Sydney and San Francisco, though when we first learned about the route they didn’t reveal many details in terms of how many frequencies to expect, and when exactly the route would launch. Well, this flight is now on sale, and business class award availability is wide open, which is incredibly rare on Qantas.

Qantas’ new flight between Melbourne and San Francisco will be operated 4x weekly as of September 1, 2018, with the following schedule:

QF49 Melbourne to San Francisco departing 9:40PM arriving 7:00PM
QF50 San Francisco to Melbourne departing 10:00PM arriving 6:30AM (+2 days)

The flight will operate on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with a Boeing 787-9. I’m impressed by Qantas’ aircraft utilization on the route. Typically Qantas and Virgin Australia operate flights to the US that leave midday and arrive in the morning, and then the plane sits on the ground all day before returning to Australia.  flights to the US that arrive early morning, and then the plane sits on the ground all day before returning to Australia. This is a much more efficient schedule, and suggests that Qantas is mostly looking to serve the Bay Area, rather than those connecting onwards.

In order to facilitate this new route, Qantas will be reducing their flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles from 13x weekly to 9x weekly. They’ll maintain the daily A380 flight, but will cut the 787 flight from 6x weekly to 2x weekly. So we’re not seeing an overall increase in capacity to the US, but rather just seeing them shift markets.

In terms of the experience you can expect on the 787-9, Qantas has these planes in a pretty premium heavy configuration, with a total of 236 seats. This includes 42 business class seats, 28 premium economy seats, and 166 economy class seats. The business class seats are based on the Vantage XL seat, meaning there’s direct aisle access from every seat.

Qantas 787 business class

What’s most exciting about this flight now being bookable is that award availability is wide open in business class. Qantas is ordinarily very stingy with business class award availability, and I’m seeing 2-6 business class award seats on many flights.

In general there are two good ways to book Qantas awards:

  • Through American AAdvantage, at the cost of 80,000 miles per person per direction
  • Through Alaska Mileage Plan, at the cost of 55,000 Mileage Plan miles per person, and you’re even allowed a free stopover (meaning you could fly from San Francisco to Melbourne, have a stopover, and then continue from Sydney to Perth, for example); this would be a great use of miles if you purchased Alaska miles for just two cents each recently

The catch is that this flight has literally only been added to the schedule within the past hour, so the websites of Alaska and American may not show this space just yet. I’ve called both Alaska and American to inquire about space — Alaska isn’t able to see the seats yet (I suspect that will change very shortly), while the American agent I spoke to could see all the space.

Hopefully this helps some of you snag some great award seats to Australia for later this year!

  1. Not a good schedule for MEL to SFO – get in late – only option for connection is a red-eye to East coast.

  2. The main reason for the rather quick turnaround in SFO and therefore high aircraft utilisation is the fact that Qantas will only get eight 789s (so far), and besides this 6-weekly MEL-LAX/SFO combo they will also operate the daily MEL-PER-LHR and BNE-LAX-JFK routes, plus a still unannounced route from BNE to the US (probably not daily though). So the schedule will be tightly packed with little room for long layovers or irr ops.

    I am looking forward to the new MEL-SFO flight, being based in MEL I’ll definitely make use of it.

  3. Just as a point of comparison Ben – Qantas charges 96,000 qantas points for a one way Business as well (which a lot of Australians would have an easier time accruing as well), despite it being the most expensive way.

    That Alaska pricing is superb though.

  4. @Sebastian : by this (“plus a still unannounced route from BNE to the US (probably not daily though)”), you’re essentially saying 4x weekly BNE-DFW is a done deal, simply waiting for a Feb/March announcement for a end of Oct / early Nov launch ?

  5. @Randy

    I think that’s why Lucky made the point that this flight is largely targeting passengers who have SFO as their final destination. QF will continue to funnel passengers with connections to other US destinations through DFW/LAX.

    Also, I imagine that the timing could potentially be attractive to business travelers wanting to connect on to NYC. Instead of leaving in the middle of the day, you can leave at night and get in on the morning of the next day. I have to imagine the red-eye issue is less problematic to those already screwed up time wise from a MEL-SFO flight.

  6. @ henryLAX: I don’t know anything more than what has been shared by Qantas publicly, sorry. At some point they announced (maybe not formally but in a speech or interview I believe) a new route from BNE to North America on the 789. Some people seem to get overly excited about ORD, but I believe DFW or SFO are much more likely given they are existing stations.

    @ Max: +1! Lucky, please review QF J class, maybe the A380 one way and 789 the other, given the huge difference in hard product.

  7. Checked the dates Lucky shows on EF, nothing available. Checked a few others too, found one coach seat available

  8. I find this schedule makes a lot of sense, actually. SFO is not a Oneworld hub, and a 7pm arrival leaves just the right amount of time to catch any of the eastbound red eyes (JFK, MIA, ORD, DFW, CLT, PHL).

  9. A lot less busier at customs and immigration at Sfo at that hour then earlier in the day, Plus you get a full day in Melbourne on the return flight.

  10. That’s nice timing for the flight from MEL for working in the bay. Work a full day, eat in the lounge, Straight to sleep on the plane, wake up for some lunch before arrival to the hotel and dinner.

    I’m interested to know how they will cater that flight, I’d rather the second meal was larger and more lunch than breakfast. I’d be unlikely to eat until midway through the flight.

  11. @ Ed – I recently flew the new LAX-MEL route, and while the food was great, Qantas seems to think that we all eat like dainty grandmas. I’m not a big person by any means, or have a bigger than usual appetite, but the entree was served on those tiny appetizer plates they use in the lounge. As for breakfast, if I hadn’t checked off two selections, I’d be starving until touchdown (Qantas’ idea of a portion of bacon is just a strip of bacon).

  12. I see february/march 2500$ fare from jnb to gru in taag first class, what do you think about usa-brussels-kigali-jnb-luanda-gru-eze-jfk?

  13. Was able to book to seats on You just changed my direction from the West Coast to the Maldives. Thanks Lucky!!

  14. The all day on the ground in LAX is caused by Sydney flights, where there is a landing ban from 2300-0600 because of the airport location. This will presumably be overcome when the new second airport gets to the stage that it can handle international flights, probably some years away.

  15. @chasgoose

    I have an upcoming trip on QF from SYD-SFO-DCA (business reward). When booked, the flight departed at 3pm and arrived at 9:30am, allowing for connections to the east coast.

    QF changed the schedule so the departure is now 6pm and arrives at 12:30pm, and there are now no AA routings to get to DCA that day. Have to do a long layer in SFO and take a red-eye flight home.

    The seat map for all classes of service is very light for the flight which now leaves at 6pm. Most people who are traveling to SFO, non-stop with SFO as their destination are probably UA Elites and are flying the UA flight.

    For the date I am traveling, the AA flight to LAX has been sold out in J for at least 4 months before departure. The UA flights to LAX and SFO are >80% full in the premium cabinet. But the QF flight to SFO is maybe 35% full.

    I understand that QF is trying to have a short turnaround in SFO, so they can use the aircraft in Australia – rather than let it sit all day in the US, like the flights to LAX, but I think they are really limiting the market.

    If you lived in the SFO area – you are likely flying UA most of the time. And if you travel to SYD on business you will likely fly UA (not QF). QF needs to feed connections in SFO.

  16. Found some Y seats on AS but nothing in premium. Qantas has seats available in both premium economy and business but their rates are rather high.

    AS only has access to mid Dec while Qantas has seats to mid January which means that most of the classic award space will be gone month in advance of AS. Just like the problem with CX F.


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