Yes, they’re old favourites – hardy perennials on the list of possibilities any time future international routes are flagged.
And as non-stop flights from Australia they’d give Qantas a competitive edge against airlines with stopover routes, but the barrier is less a shortage of travellers than a shortage of aircraft.
Qantas most recently cited Paris, Chicago and Seattle as “potential new opportunities” for its long-range Boeing 787s at the group’s annual Investor Day on May 30, noting the Dreamliner’s strong performance on international “point-to-point routes” such as Perth-London, Perth-Rome, Melbourne-Dallas and Sydney-Johannesburg.
The arrival of three new Boeing 787s and the return of more upgraded Airbus A380s from storage will play their part in a domino effect to rebuild international flying to 100% of pre-pandemic levels by March 2024, according to the airline.
However, outgoing Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has suggested the Project Sunrise Airbus A350s – which will launch non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London from late 2025 – will also play their part in opening up routes for the 787.
“The A350 allows us to free up some of the 787s from other routes that we have,” Joyce noted on the sidelines of an International Air Transport Association meeting in Istanbul in June.
And where would those 787s be headed?
“We’d like to see Paris appear on our network, we'd like to see Seattle appear, and Chicago appear on it,” Joyce said, "And having the availability of the 787s does those markets, and more. And that’s all part of the Sunrise case.”
Perth-Paris has repeatedly been highlighted as Qantas’ next non-stop Boeing 787 trek from Perth, following the Melbourne-Perth-London and Sydney-Perth-Rome flights and shoring up Perth’s status as the Red Roo’s western “international hub”.
“We’d love to be able to do more” destinations from Perth, Joyce told Perth radio station 6PR earlier this year.
“We want to do Paris and we’re talking to Air France and other European airlines about how we could do that.”
But this depends on Qantas and Perth Airport solving the bottleneck in customs facilities at the international wing of Qantas’ Perth terminal, Joyce explained.
This has already led to the suspension of planned year-round flights to Jakarta and Johannesburg, Joyce said, and would stymy further expansion of the Perth-based international network.
“Unfortunately we’re probably paused in terms of expansion until we can reach agreement with (Perth) airport,” Joyce said, adding that while “we’d love to move across to the other side” of the airport and its expanded Airport Central international terminal precinct “that’s going to be years away, and we need a long-term deal with perth airport in order to get that.”
“We’re still in dialogue with Perth airport (and) we’re hoping that we can reach agreement because it will unlock a huge amount of growth.”
The lure of the Windy City
The first Qantas Brisbane-Chicago flight was scheduled to take off in April 15 2020 but became an early casualty of the Covid pandemic, although Joyce has previously described Chicago as “still a huge opportunity” for the airline.
As the 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.
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.
Sydney-Seattle remains another stateside possibility for the Boeing 787, with direct flights almost the same distance as Qantas’ current trans-Pacific trek between Sydney and Vancouver.
Seattle’s long-standing appeal spans from being the home of US high-tech titans to a hub for Arctic and Alaskan cruises, not to mention the natural outdoor attractions of the Pacific Northwest.
An added incentive for Qantas could also be that Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is now a member of the Oneworld alliance, so Sydney-Seattle flights could also enjoy a solid serve of inbound tourism through the partnership.
Executive Traveller readers: if Qantas was to launch just one of these three routes, which would you prefer it to be? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.