Qantas eyes direct flights to Paris, Chicago, Seattle

Qantas is once again name-dropping the trio of international cities for future non-stop flights.

By David Flynn, July 21 2023
Qantas eyes direct flights to Paris, Chicago, Seattle

Having launched fresh flights to Rome, Delhi, Bengaluru, Seoul and New York in recent years, Qantas is keen to continue spreading its wings with direct flights to Paris, Chicago and Seattle.

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.”

Paris match

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.

For me it''d have to be Sydney-Seattle. As the article says, Seattle has a lot going for it and I'm sure the Washington State tourism board would happily co-fund that route, maybe running three times a week on the days the Sydney-Vancouver route doesn't run. I can't see a future in Brisbane-Chicago, not now that Qantas has returned to New York.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 407

I don't think we will see Perth-Paris or Perth-ANYWHERE until the war between Qantas and Perth Airport is ended, so as nice as a Sydney-Perth-Paris 787 would be, my money is actually on Sydney-Seattle, I already fly there sometimes but go via LAX or SFO which is a real pain. Be great to fly from Sydney to Seattle non-stop, saving time and skipping all the transit hassles.

22 Jan 2018

Total posts 102

The BLR flight has been a massive success. Apparently some 92% avg load factor. They need to make it daily! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 371

Brisbane-Chicago but they need to also focus on getting the A330 off Brisbane-LA and get the B787 back. It’ll be UA until they do.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Nov 2012

Total posts 14

I was comparing both the 332 and 789 seats and in Business and Economy there doesn't seem to be a difference. Unless there are a few older 332's flying around, the upgraded versions have the same product. The 789 does have the added cabin of Premium Economy though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2022

Total posts 13

Could switch the FCO flight from seasonal and then alternate with CDG a few times a week. 

SYD - SEA would be optimal, a route UA doesn’t cover and it’s clear they are taking the US - AU market seriously. I question ORD - I understand it’s a major hub, but with JFK, LAX, SFO and then DFW (a massive AA hub in itself and serving across the Midwest already and Southeast, along with LAC) I’d wager you’d cover more demand from tourism and business heading straight to SEA and then onwards on AS to the northwest, Alaska and mountain states as opposed to ORD. 

Alternating with YVR also makes a lot of sense. If you really need to fly onto the US the day the 787 heads to YVR, you can clear US customs in Vancouver anyway. 

22 Feb 2022

Total posts 6

Perth probem might be solved when Joyce leaves Qantas. Ex airport chief Kevin Brown and Joyce are both hard heads who want their own way. State Govt had to step in and sort out the start-up of the LHR-PER service back in 2018 because Joyce and Brown were at war.

Maybe new head of Perth Airport can work with Qantas on agreed transition to a new central terminal, and sort out short term border control issues (which is a Federal problem).

I'd be happy with Sydney-Seattle direct or Sydney-Perth-Paris but I don't think Brisbane-Chicago will happen. Seemed like an okay idea in 2019 when it was announced but now we are probably looking at sometime in 2024 before Qantas can spare the 787s once the last three A380s coming back, and I reckon Paris or Seattle would be more popular.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1023

The air service agreement with France allows for 3 "units" per week.

A unit is defined by the amount of seats on the aircraft used, with 400+ seats being 1 unit.

The QF 789 config of 236 seats falls in the 0.5 unit range, allowing 6 weekly flights.

With the air service agreement with the US being open skies, there is no limit on the amount of flights QF could operate to SEA or ORD.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Dec 2016

Total posts 2

Seattle for the win. Civilised people and airport with good connectivity, courteous immigration staff and fast transfers. Good coffee available!

22 Jan 2018

Total posts 102

Where exactly have you had good coffee at seatac?!! I’ live in Seattle and the airport has some of the worst f&b options. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Apr 2016

Total posts 14

I would prefer Brisbane -Chicago just to break up the Sydney centric mind set of Qantas.

Spoiler alert. 

I live in Brisbane

Here here.

I've given up on Qantas giving Brisbane any priority...the chances are better that United makes it their Asia-Pacific hub (note: also not likely but more likely than Qantas putting any focus on Brisbane).

03 Mar 2023

Total posts 6

I wouldn't be surprised if it's Brisbane - Seattle rather than Sydney - Seattle.  Brisbane is the home of Boeing Australia and lots of defence and aerospace companies in Brisbane.  That aside, it seems to make more sense geographically, and for onwards connecting traffic than Chicago does from Brisbane.

Good to hear that the Brisbane to Chicago service is back on the radar.  Let's hope if it proceeds that it is a flight schedule with an early a.m. arrival time into Chicago.
Agree with "Bcoz" that a Brisbane to Seattle should be a consideration with Alaska Airlines now being a full One World member and being their home base with good onward connections eastwards.
Again, if it ever comes into being, let's hope the scheduling has an early a.m. arrival timing into Seattle.

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