Keith Tan was on board this weekend’s final Qantas direct flight from San Francisco to Sydney – a popular route which has now been axed in favour of a new direct service between Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth. He filed this report for Australian Business Traveller.
There was a noticeably sombre mood among Qantas staff at SFO International Airport when I arrived to check in for the last-ever QF74 to Sydney on the evening of Saturday May 7th.
The Qantas staff were wearing the obligatory ‘service industry smile’ but you could tell there was a sense of weary resignation as the Flying Kangaroo bid adios to SFO.
“You’re sad?” the check-in agent quipped. “Think about how I’m feeling!”.
Another member of the cabin crew shared her disappointment at losing access to her favourite port of call. After all, it’s not hard to love San Francisco – and I doubt the longer haul and overnight in Dallas Fort Worth will have similar appeal to Qantas crew.
There were some nods to the finality of this flight. SFO gave Qantas a farewell on the departure board and the plane was sent off with a water cannon salute.
Onboard, cabin crew carried glow sticks which they activated after take-off when the cabin light were dimmed and the Boeing 747 flew a low-level loop over San Francisco (see the flight plan below).
So what now for those of us who regularly fly from Australia to San Francisco? The comments of fellow passengers in the lounge and on the flight painted an illuminating picture of how Qantas’ decision to cull the SYD-SFO route from its network impacted on their travel plans.
Many regular travellers to SFO prioritised the convenience of a direct route and would not hesitate switching their airline of choice to United, especially for United business class, and also said they would welcome the entry of Virgin Australia as a direct-to-SFO alternative.
Almost in equal measure were the number of SFO travellers who perceive Qantas as having a superior product to United and said they would not mind transiting via Los Angeles.
As someone who is based in Melbourne and flies to San Francisco approximately three times a year, the decision by Qantas to drop SFO is not going to have a major impact on my travel plans.
There are currently no direct services between Melbourne and SFO, and journey between the two ports has always involved a one-stop connection via Sydney, Auckland or Los Angeles.
I make it a point to support Australian carriers, as I revel in the familiarity of the easy-going yet professional Australian style of service.
My choices are therefore further narrowed down to flying via Los Angeles with Qantas or Virgin Australia. If anything, the field has now been leveled for both carriers, given the advantages of flying with Qantas via Sydney and onwards to SFO have now been removed.
Any connection involving LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal is surely an annoyance on the best of days to even the most hardened road warrior. Bring on a Virgin Australia service to SFO, I say – but please, bring it to Melbourne as well as Sydney.