Monday, May 2, 2011

Qantas to Dallas

Hooray! Qantas is finally coming to Dallas after a long-awaited and much anticipated announcement to begin service in May of 2011. We all knew the only thing holding them up was an uptick in the economy that would sustain the first non-traditional (anything other than Los Angeles or San Francisco) nonstop service to the land down under. Though in fact the service comes by way of discontinuing their service to San Francisco which freed up the aircraft assets needed to fly the route it is surely welcome news in these here parts.

San Francisco never made much sense simply because it is a United Airlines stronghold, a founding member of the Star Alliance. Qantas has been in bed with American Airlines through oneworld and guess where American’s strongest base is located. No brainer that over 800 silver birds a day launch from Dallas bringing tons of connecting traffic with them. Just like at Los Angeles, the southbound departure to Brisbane which then continues to Sydney doesn’t depart until late at night leaving all day long for traffic to build at Dallas to fill the airplane. Even without much in the way of connecting business the Dallas/Ft Worth area is fourth largest in the country in terms of population at nearly seven million, was recently cited for having more corporate headquarters in the area than New York City and thus has no shortage of the affluent and well-heeled.

Am I invested in this new service in any way? Nope, but I am a fan of Qantas, having flown them on more than one occasion. I also live in the area and have close friends in New Zealand. This service just made it a heck of a lot easier to stay in touch without having to deal with Los Angeles but also continuing to earn AAdvantage frequent flyer miles. There’s not really a lot to complain about regarding this service, scheduled to launch with my favorite airplane, the 747-400 offering coach, premium economy and business class.

Actually there is just one little thing that I’m concerned/curious about and that is the plan to launch nonstop to Brisbane. Sydney is simply too far for the 747, the A380 is too large for the market (not to mention grounded due to engine troubles) and the 787 probably a year away from entering this particular market. Brisbane is all of 276 miles closer and thus within the extreme limit of the range of the plane they’re planning to use. Wow, a whole 276 miles. I remember when United attempted nonstop service from Los Angeles to Melbourne but the equipment they used more often than not had to call in to Honolulu for extra fuel thanks to headwinds, payload or both.

That was a different model 747 that didn’t have the same range as the one Qantas will use but the extreme limits present the same problems with seasonal headwinds and such like. The routing of the flight will take it through Texas west-southwest across Mexico and across Baja California for about four hours before breaking out over the Pacific for the final 13 hours to Brisbane. That routing leaves precious few North American alternates to choose from on this side of the flight if refueling is an unavoidable part of the plan. What’s left after that?

Hawaii would be too far to the north so that leaves Tahiti or Fiji as having air strips and facilities well positioned and capable of handling a middle of the night fuel stop or worse. With that said I am in no way concerned about the safe operation of the service. I only wonder if I may be lucky enough to experience an unscheduled “technical” stop as part of my vacation adventure. There is a solution, though.

Instead of trying to make Brisbane they could fly the route nonstop to New Zealand where my friends are. Auckland is 800 miles closer and comfortably within range of the 747. They could drop me off and then keep going to Sydney from there. But maybe they and Air New Zealand (offering a competing nonstop to Houston to hook up with Continental Airlines) have already thought of that!

Gotta go!

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