Qantas says it will continue to fly Boeing 747s on the Sydney-Texas route and may even introduce the Airbus A380 as demand grows, rather than switch to the smaller but long-range and more fuel efficient Dreamliner when the first of the next-gen jetliners arrives in 2015-2016.
"Dallas/Fort Worth is one of those markets that probably will justify a larger plane now and well into the future" predicts Lyell Strambi, Qantas Group Executive for Operations.
Reiterating the Red Roo's desire to move to daily flights between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth as it chases more business travellers to make the trek to Texas, Strambi told Australian Business Traveller the airline's "first objective with Dallas is to pad it out to daily services with a big plane. Why would you then drop back to a 787 in that case?"
"I would hope that Dallas, being such a centre of activity for American Airlines, should sustain big aircraft" Strambi said, including "in the longer term maybe A380s".
"There are still some tweaks in the 747 that we can make, and we’re exploring those to see if we can add a little more payload range capability to that airplane" Strambi say. "The 747 has been a fantastic workhorse and will still be around for quite some time."
The soon-to-be-reconfigured 747-400 will carry 364 passengers, with room for 457 travellers on the double-decker A380.
In comparison, the Boeing 787-9 ordered by Qantas will top out at a maximum of 350 seats across three classes.
Qantas sees the eventual move from four flights per week to a scheduled daily service, along with the array of connections offered by US partner American Airlines and Dallas' relative proximity to the financial hubs of New York and Chicago, as key factors in boosting business travel via Texas rather than Qantas' primary and better-served west coast hub at Los Angeles.
The route's appeal to business travellers will be increased when the first of the refitted Boeing 747-400ER aircraft makes its debut on the long 15+ hour leg, a move expected by year's end.
The upgraded jumbos will sport the A380-grade seats, including fully-flat Skybed II seat-beds in business class plus Recaro seats in premium economy.
The Sydney-DFW flight has been beset by several diversions and refuelling stops due to strong headwinds on the return leg (which calls for a stop-over in Brisbane), plus instances of baggage being offloaded in Dallas before take-off.
However, Strambi insists that Qantas' experience with the route since it was introduced in May has helped the airline become "more accurate in our load planning and therefore more efficient and able to achieve better returns" which should result in a smoother journey with no unexpected stop-overs for passengers.
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.