Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is confident that the airline will launch direct flights to Chicago as part of a joint venture with American Airlines, pending approval of the tie-up by the US Department of Transport.
However, Joyce also hedges that should the DoT not provide anti-trust immunity so that the two airlines can coordinate on flight schedules and pricing, Seattle could get the nod for the non-stop Boeing 787 service which would run daily from Brisbane.
"We are working through the DoT application and we are still confident we will get anti-trust immunity," Joyce told Australian Business Traveller at a media briefing on the airline's FY2018 financial results, which landed as a record $1.6 billion in pre-tax profit.
"We need that (because) it does influence which destination works," Joyce added.
In addition to being an attractive destination in its own right Chicago also serves as a gateway to the mid-West and a hub for American Airlines, with over 500 daily departures, including a shuttle service to New York with 15 flights running every half-hour on weekdays.
"Chicago is a big American Airlines hub and you do need a partnership to make it effective, we've shown clearly how that happens in Dallas."
But Seattle is waiting in the wings, and Joyce has a dollar each way in this race, saying "we have a great relationship with Alaska Airlines."
As home to technology giants such as Microsoft and Amazon plus 'satellite' offices of Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook, along with a wide range of start-ups, Seattle's tech cred is an obvious drawcard and comes second only to San Francisco as the USA's top tech market.
However, Seattle is also a refreshingly different US city with plenty of appeal in its own right; serves as a gateway to Canada via Vancouver; and anchors a sizeable cruise market into Alaska and tours through the Canadian Rockies, with several cruising and travel companies already booking blocks of seats on Air Canada flights between Australia and Vancouver.
One way or the other, Joyce says "We've made it fairly clear that we are ambitious to grow North American with more destinations."
"We'll know in next few months (about the DoT application) and then we can make an announcement."
With Qantas' first eight Dreamliners now flying to London and Los Angeles, with New York and San Francisco starting on September 1 and Hong Kong from December, Chicago or Seattle could mark the first route of the next six Boeing 787-9 jets due to arrive from late 2019.
Paris and Germany are already pencilled in as likely starters for the ‘second six’, although Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously said "we’ll be looking at destinations in the Americas, Asia, South Africa and Europe."
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