Qantas is expected to launch direct flights from Brisbane to Chicago and San Francisco after the US Department of Transportation this week tentatively approved a partnership between the Australian carrier and American Airlines, the Brisbane Times reports. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already approved the partnership.
Qantas and American Airlines are already code-share partners but the joint venture will allow the two companies to share flight revenue and collaborate on route planning, pricing, sales, lounges, marketing and frequent flyer programs.
For travellers it will mean a 787 Dreamliner straight to San Francisco or Chicago. The trip to Chicago, in particular, is currently one of the more arduous US journeys for Australian flyers, involving 20 hours of travel and a potentially hectic stopover at LAX in Los Angeles.
Virgin and Delta, and United and Air New Zealand already have similar business arrangements, but US regulators initially denied a 2016 request from Qantas and American to cooperate. Parties now wishing to object to the partnership have until June 17 to make a submission before the department announces its final decision. The Times reports that sources close to Virgin Australia say the airline would not lodge an objection. An Air New Zealand spokeswoman, meanwhile, told the paper that the airline was reviewing the US decision.
"Qantas and American flagged an intention to launch several new routes within the first two years of the proposed joint business," Qantas said in a statement released on Tuesday in response to the tentative approval.
"Qantas expects to announce details of two new routes – Brisbane–Chicago and Brisbane–San Francisco – once final approval is received."
Brisbane–Chicago would be the next step in Qantas’s ambitious plans for a network of ultra-long-haul flights to crisscross the world. Dreamliners already fly direct between Perth and London, and future flights could include (the capabilities of new Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft depending) connections between Australia’s eastern capitals and London and New York.