Qantas revisits non-stop flights to Chicago

Scuppered by the pandemic, the ultra-long range route is once again a contender...

By David Flynn, February 6 2023
Qantas revisits non-stop flights to Chicago

Qantas hasn’t given up on direct flights from Brisbane to Chicago, which were an early casualty of the pandemic just weeks before the inaugural non-stop service took off on April 15 2020.

While non-stop flights from Perth to Paris are a candidate for the next wave of Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries due mid-year, Chicago could trump the French capital says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

It all hinges on protracted negotiation with Perth Airport over the expansion of immigration and customs facilities at the international wing of Qantas’ Perth terminal, which has already scuttled flights from Perth to Johannesburg and Jakarta.

“Unfortunately we’re probably paused in terms of expansion until we can reach agreement with (Perth) airport,” Joyce told Perth radio station 6PR on Friday.

And without that agreement, Qantas would look elsewhere for growth – including states and airports with money to spend on attracting airlines in an effort to bolster tourism and the economy.

“Other airports around the country are keen (and) the aircraft are movable assets,” Joyce noted. “So if it’s not Perth to Paris it could be Brisbane to Chicago.”

The lure of the Windy City

Joyce has previously described the Chicago as “still a huge opportunity” for the airline, while also citing Seattle – home to Oneworld member Alaska Airlines – as another stateside possibility.

As the first and only non-stop flight between Australia and The Windy City, this would be a valuable ‘monopoly route' for Qantas.

Chicago-bound passengers will save more than six hours of travel time on a return trip compared to flying via Los Angeles, with Brisbane-Chicago being the first and only non-stop flight to Chicago from Australia. 

In addition to being the USA's third-largest city and an attractive destination in its own right, Chicago also serves as a gateway to the mid-West and a hub for American Airlines.

New York is the next US destination to land on the Qantas map, with flights from Sydney to New York via Auckland taking off in June 2023.

The airline will run a Boeing 787 three days a week on the marathon flight, which will act as a prelude to non-stop Sydney-New York flights under Project Sunrise from late 2025.

But Joyce expects the New York via Auckland route will remain after Project Sunrise launches, in the same way that the current Perth-London and Sydney-Singapore-London flights won’t be replaced by those direct Sydney-London Airbus A350 marathons.

“When we do Sydney-New York, we take it that there probably will (still) be a market for Auckland-New York, as there’s a lot of routes we take to be complementary to each other, and potentially serve a slightly different market,” he has previously observed.

“We’re optimistic that this will be maintained even post-Sunrise.”