The new Qantas flights between Australia and Dallas-Fort Worth have already inconvenienced scores of passengers by the deliberate off-loading of checked luggage to ensure the Boeing 747-400ER  used for the flights don’t have to make unscheduled refuelling stops.

But Qantas pilots, armed with the range-payload charts for the jet, warned that this was always going to happen, and are arguing that this is a case of Qantas “doing” Qantas rather than Qantas being “done” by Dallas and its ultra-long range challenges.

The poor start to the services have fuelled several conspiracy theories concerning the true motives of Qantas management in sacrificing daily non-stop flights between San Francisco and Australia for four weekly flights to the more distant Dallas-Fort Worth hub of its oneworld alliance partner American Airlines.

One conspiracy theory is that Jetstar has been groomed to take over yet another Qantas route by moving onto San Francisco services using an A330-200, which will have to land in both directions at Auckland, adding hours to the flight times for a product that is pitched at discount economy rather than premium-fare flyers.

This theory is plausible, given numerous claims by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, that its long-haul services are in terminal decline, and the strategic advancing of the Jetstar franchise through Asia, as well as between Australia and Asia, with Australian registered jets transferred to Changi airport and manned under the terms of cheaper Singaporean labour agreements.

Another nuance in the conspiracy scenarios is that the Dallas-Fort Worth services were deliberately set up to fail, as part of a grand plan by the current Qantas management to quickly destroy the full-service brand in order to pressure the Australian government to “rescue” the icon by repealing the limitations on its ownership and domicile as enshrined in the Qantas Sale Act 1992.

This may be a scenario too far, and it has been denounced as such by Qantas, apart from the bit about the legal restrictions on the carrier, which successive managements have lobbied against since the privatised group was listed in 1995.

Qantas has, however, confirmed the essentials of Dallas Fort-Worth flight problems since the story was broken in Australian Business Traveller.

Pilots say that the Boeing 747-400ER used on the scheduled non-stop Sydney-DFW journey, and the return flight that is scheduled non-stop to Brisbane and then on to Sydney simply cannot do either trip with a full payload of passenger in realistic conditions in terms of unfavourable winds or diversion planning.

Which raises the question: what was Qantas thinking when it touted the service as saving time and inconvenience for business passengers flying between Australia and the central and eastern state of America, and New York or Washington DC in particular?

There is nothing business friendly in a 744, which doesn’t have the amenity of the A380s that fly to Los Angeles, or involves living in the same clothes a passenger was wearing on boarding for an additional 24 hours while the change of shirt and jocks is consigned to a parcel courier service. There is nothing business friendly about less than daily flights either, one of the cardinal rules of airline scheduling for premium passengers.

According to excellent sources, Qantas is blocking off large numbers of seats as not for sale on the routes, as well as off-loading luggage, to avoid unscheduled stops along the routes to and from Texas. Which means that for much the same fares as it used to collect for San Francisco, it is flying the same jet much further, and burning more fuel and paying more crew wages, without ever being able to fill as many of the seats, and annoying the hell out of premium passengers in the process.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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