Qantas and American Airlines will no longer seek to expand their joint venture partnership following a tentative denial of antitrust immunity by the US Department of Transportation.
The airlines had hoped to allay the DoT’s concerns over competition on trans-Pacific routes but were also declined an extension to do so beyond the two-week window afforded by the DoT, resulting in the withdrawal of the airlines’ joint application on aspects such as revenue sharing.
But what does this regulatory stoush actually mean for travellers?
Today, not too much: Qantas will continue codesharing on American Airlines flights and AA will do likewise with Qantas, with travellers earning and spending frequent flyer points – and earning status credits – as they do today whenever flying with either airline.
Sleep easy: you'll still earn Qantas Points and status credits when travelling with American Airlines.
Qantas and American will also remain partners through their longstanding memberships in the global Oneworld airline alliance, promising perks such as priority check-in and airport lounge access to selected frequent flyers when travelling with these and all other Oneworld carriers.
For the immediate future, all Qantas and American Airlines flights between the USA and both Australia and New Zealand will run as scheduled, including AA’s recently-launched routes from Sydney and Auckland to Los Angeles, and Qantas’ newly-returned Sydney-San Francisco flights.
However, what happens next is yet to be decided, with both Qantas and AA mulling the future shape of their respective networks.
“Without antitrust approval, Qantas and American Airlines will be severely limited in their ability to work together to grow on the trans-Pacific routes,” Qantas said in a statement. “As a consequence, each airline will need to assess their trans-Pacific networks.”
“This is an extremely disappointing sequence of events for Qantas and American Airlines, as well as for customers,” the statement continues. “Both carriers are committed to finding ways to work together more closely to deliver benefits to customers that neither could offer alone.”
Qantas and American Airlines submitted their application in June 2015, almost six months before American started flights between Sydney and Los Angeles and Qantas resumed its Sydney-San Francisco route.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the airline was now "considering (its) options" on the Sydney-San Francisco route, for example.
With limitations on the airlines’ commercial cooperation, the prospect of using Qantas Points to upgrade to business and first class on American Airlines flights – and vice versa – is also in doubt, having previously been considered as part of the expanded joint venture.