Qantas is cancelling its direct service between Sydney and San Francisco as of May 14, forcing passengers bound for San Francisco to transit via Los Angeles or the Dallas, Texas hub of Qantas' partner American Airlines.
Qantas spokesman Tom Woodward confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that May 14 would be the last flight for the QF73/QF74 route, with the current 747-400s being needed for the newly-announced Sydney-Dallas service as of May 16.
"It's pretty much just a commercial decision to provide us with better and more direct access to the American Airlines network in the US, which means Dallas/Fort Worth as their major hub airport, so it makes a lot of sense for us to fly there direct."
Woodward admitted that the popular direct Sydney-San Francisco service "has not been a failure from a route perspective, but from a strategic growth perspective for Qantas, DFW is the better plan for the future."
Passenger numbers between Sydney and San Francisco have never been as high as on the more popular service through Los Angeles. Qantas recommenced the SFO route in 1996 after an eleven-year break but the flights have remained on a 747-400 which was recently downgraded into three-class service, while LAX enjoys the four-class Airbus A380.
The impact on business travellers
Qantas passengers wishing to travel to San Francisco will still have one-stop access via codeshares with American from LAX or DFW, but this is far from the best option.
Even the best connection times from Sydney to San Francisco via LAX will see travellers lose four hours.
The bottom line for business travellers? If you want to get a full day's work done in San Francisco before your flight, you need to fly United Airlines.
United -- whose CEO recently admitted to Australian Business Traveller that UA's Sydney-San Francisco 747 service was "unacceptable" -- is now the only airline flying direct from Sydney to San Francisco.
United's UA 870 departs Sydney at 1425, getting into SFO at 1101 the next morning. The return flight, UA863, leaves SFO at 2237 and arrives into Sydney at 0625 two days later.
The Qantas alternative will see travellers leave Sydney at 2350, arriving in LA at 0725 and connecting onwards at 0930 for arrival into San Francisco at 10.50. That adds four hours of travel onto the journey.
The return leg is an even worse deal. The latest possible flight leaves San Francisco at 1910 -- four hours earlier than the current QF74 direct flight. The connecting American flight arrives in LA at 2030 and connecting onwards at 2230, arriving into Sydney at 0630 two days later.
Since check-in times at San Francisco for international flights (including connections via LAX) are three hours before departure travellers will need to be at the airport by 1610, which means dashing out of the city shortly after lunch – instead of staying on for more meetings, some shopping and an early dinner and still having time to make QF74's 2300 departure.
And there's another catch: San Francisco's notorious fog. Fights out of the city are often delayed by one or two hours as the thick fog rolls in, which could mean the difference between catching your connecting flight at LAX or having the Qantas plane leave without you.
If you're considering the alternatives to Qantas for travelling from Sydney to San Francisco, we've boiled down the best options for you.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.