Texas and Australia

I think just about everyone was at least a little surprised at the announcement of the QANTAS flight between DFW and Brisbane, Australia.   It was a subject that would pop up on the radar now and then but generally dismissed with skepticism of it ever happening.  Particularly with the equipment that QANTAS had for making the flight, namely the 747-400ER.

Flights between the United States and Australia have been the domain of west coast cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco and the primary equipment has been the 747-400.  The aircraft available to make such a flight has already changed and is due to change a bit more in the future.  The 747 got used more because of its range and ability to haul a passenger load with a strong load of cargo.  Generally, long flights like that work best if there is enough demand for a 747 because seat costs go down.

Now the 777-300 is plying trans-Atlantic routes between the US and Australia and soon will be on routes between the US and New Zealand.  It’s a good aircraft for the trip because of the 777′s ability to fly it non-stop, carry a load of cargo and a fairly large complement of passengers.  We’ll see these West Coast to Down Under flights fracture a bit more in the future when the 787-8/9 come online with airlines.

So why the 747 and DFW?  Well, it’s notable that SFO is losing its flight with QANTAS but that makes sense now.  San Francisco is the domain of United, not American Airlines and QANTAS is partners with AA via Oneworld.  Los Angeles remains and it should remain as a Western US departure point between for Oneworld. 

Until now, Oneworld has had to feed all its traffic from all over the United States to either Los Angeles or San Francisco and while LA is a Oneworld focus city, all other Oneworld focus cities are east of the Rocky Mountains.  They are Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, New York and Miami.   In that group, there was only one city that made sense with the aircraft available today:  DFW.

The other thing that has changed is the new anti-trust immune cooperative agreements that are forming in Oneworld.  First there is the trans-Atlantic Oneworld partnerships and second is the trans-Pacific(Japan) Oneworld partnership.  Next is logically AA/QANTAS. 

With DFW and Los Angeles as that “hub”, Oneworld can feed traffic to DFW from points east of the Rocky Mountains and from points in Mexico, Central America and South America all to DFW.  Yes, AA can feed that 747 nicely.  And if they do it well enough, you can bet on seeing an Airbus A380 being switched into that route. 

DFW gets a nice boost from all of this as well.  It’s already started to transition back into a more “international” airport than it has bee in some time.  British Airways is now using a 747 on one of its flights to DFW and AA is using more 777s for its flights to Europe.  It will continue to grow as a Oneworld “hub” both because of its good location (not nearly as affected by weather as other potential hubs) as well as the availability of room to grow. 

I would be completely unsurprised at the addition of another direct route to Tokyo and a direct flight to China in the near future.   Currently AA has 2 flights to Japan via 777s and I think we may see one more or, alternatively, we may see JAL start flying one of those flights with its own 777.  AA has wanted to fly direct to China from DFW (and it should) but has so far been blocked by its pilots over duty time rules that AA wanted a variance for from the union.  The flight they wanted to do ultimately went to Chicago instead.  Expect AA to make another run at such a route.

One thing I don’t think we’ll see is a lot of additional routes from Los Angeles to Oneworld destinations.  It’s a crowded airport with limited room to grow.  Delta/Sky Team has a strong base in Seattle and United/Star Alliance has got strength in San Francisco.   Dallas / Fort Worth offers the growth opportunities now with the ability to fly longer range flights using the 787 and 777 and I think we’ll see more and more long haul flights from DFW.

I have to say that I’m very pleased for DFW and I see this as a very good development for American Airlines as well.  It’s nice to see opportunities created like this within Oneworld and on AA’s part, too.

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