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UPDATE [June 17 2019] | Qantas will launch non-stop Brisbane-Chicago flights in April 2020, along with Brisbane-San Francisco flights from the same month. See our report for more details.
PREVIOUS | Qantas says it expects to begin non-stop flights to Chicago following US approval for its joint venture with American Airlines.
The new trans-Pacific route would spear between Brisbane and Chicago on one of Qantas' new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Also on the cards "once final approval is received" is a direct Brisbane-San Francisco Dreamliner flight, which would complement Qantas' current SF services from Sydney and Melbourne.
"Qantas and American flagged an intention to launch several new routes within the first two years of the proposed joint business," Qantas said in response to tentative JV approval issued overnight by the US Department of Transport.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has already given its tick to the trans-Pacific partnership, which would allow Qantas and American Airlines to closely co-ordinate on pricing, schedules, sales and frequent flyer programs under the shield of anti-trust immunity.
The DoT said the airlines planned to launch "up to three new routes" within the first two years while also increasing capacity on existing routes.
Qantas has previously promised that extended codesharing with American Airlines would "open more connections to more destinations," with "a wider range of fare classes across each other’s networks, including lower fares and discounts."
It has also flagged a higher earning rate of Qantas Points on American Airlines flights "beyond what is possible today through Oneworld, as well as increased redemption opportunities and improved reciprocal end-to-end recognition of our top-tier frequent flyers."
Speaking on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said new non-stop routes which Qantas could open up under the joint business agreement with Oneworld member American Airlines included Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights from Brisbane to Chicago, Seattle and Dallas.
“We have a number of different, very good routes and plans for a very good expansion into the US when it is approved."
Joyce has repeatedly cited direct flights to Chicago as first fruit of any American Airlines JV, although he has been somewhat pipped to the post by Air New Zealand's Auckland-Chicago flights which began in December 2018.
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," Joyce told Australian Business Traveller in August 2018.
However, Seattle has also been waiting in the wings. 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.
Seattle is also a refreshingly different US city with plenty of appeal in its own right; offers 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 said, "We've made it fairly clear that we are ambitious to grow North American with more destinations."
Between them, Qantas and American Airlines control an estimated 60% of traffic between between Australia and the US; the pair would go up against the partnership between Virgin Australia and Delta Air Lines, as well as United Airlines.
Qantas will take delivery of six new Boeing 787-9 jets from late 2019 through to late 2020, bringing the total red-tailed Dreamliner fleet to 14 in number.
Paris has long been considered a starter for this second tranche of Boeing 787s, with Frankfurt potentially following, but Joyce has put those plans on ice due to the airline’s ongoing disputes with Perth Airport, which would anchor the Australian end of the new European routes.
The companies are currently in disagreement over airport usage charges as well as which international terminal Qantas can use in Perth for its expanding network of international flights – a stoush that already cost the city a non-stop Qantas flight from Perth to Johannesburg.