Qantas played the American Airlines alliance card hard today when it announced it would stop flying to San Francisco in favour of new flights to Dallas/Fort Worth.
Faced with the risk that the Virgin Blue alliance with Delta across the Pacific might finally get the necessary US approval, and signs that V Australia is gaining traction on the Australia-Los Angeles routes, the decision to offer four times weekly non-stops to American Airlines’ biggest hub from May 16 isn’t surprising.
But dropping the Bay City is a surprise, and tells us that it is less important to business travellers than many analysts believed, and despite its proximity to Silicon Valley.
After San Francisco is dropped on May 14, two days before DFW is launched, Qantas expects displaced travellers to make time-consuming connections with American at Los Angeles.
It’s a big ask. LAX is a pain in the butt, and enduring two US security procedures instead of one, and arrive maybe three or four hours later in San Francisco is absurd.
But the winners among Qantas customers will be those who want to fly to Washington DC through its convenient near-town Ronald Reagan airport.
The connections through DFW to Reagan are better than the limited non-stop options from LAX or SFO. The Texas hub also expands access for Qantas customers to more of American’s network. Whether or not the Virgin Australia/Delta joint venture is approved, United, which is the other Qantas competitor across the Pacific, has merged its network with that of Continental Airlines, adding to the pressure on Qantas to maximise its relationship with American Airlines.
The Qantas flights to Dallas will be able to fly non-stop from Sydney in a Boeing 747-400ER but because of headwinds are scheduled to return via Brisbane.
The –ER versions of the 747 are the youngest left in the Qantas jumbo jet fleet, and are due to be refurbished to A380 cabin standards starting late this year, but without a first class, which is also another sign that while business travel activity is rising for all airlines, a willingness to pay for top-tier luxury is diminishing, or disappearing into private corporate jets.