Australia's Strategic Airlines could join Qantas, Jetstar and V Australia with flights to the United States as early as this September.
Strategic Airlines, which has only had Australian airline certification since September 2009, has applied for IASC regulatory permission for unlimited flights to the US.
Currently, the airline flies only a few routes within Australia: Perth-Derby, and from Brisbane to Townsville, Port Hedland and Gladstone. It also flies from Brisbane and Melbourne to Bali and Phuket.
Strategic would join V Australia, Qantas and Jetstar as Australian airlines serving the US, plus American carriers Delta, United, and Hawaiian Airlines.
With recliner-style business class offerings rather than flat beds or even lie-flat seats, the airline isn't likely to be a top choice for US-bound corporate business travellers. However, it could well become a useful alternative option and a favourite for cost-conscious passengers and small businesses.
Brisbane-based Strategic currently has one long-range Airbus A330 and six smaller A320 planes. The airline plans to buy or lease two more A330s.
In terms of destinations, the A330 Strategic currently uses lacks the range to reliably fly direct between Australia and the mainland United States with a full load. Newer, more efficient versions of the plane have an extended range, allowing full flights from Sydney to California.
Qantas flies older A330s to Los Angeles LAX, but with a stop in Auckland, shaving about 1500 km off the full trans-Pacific distance.
The obvious answer to the A330 range question is Honolulu in Hawaii, only 8150 km from Australia.
Strategic could either make a fuel stop in Honolulu before continuing on to a mainland US destination or enter into a partnership with an American airline to deliver passengers onwards from Hawaii.
If Strategic did fly all the way to the mainland US, look for it to avoid LAX, which has almost all of the US-bound trans-Pacific traffic.
San Francisco's SFO is a potential alternative, as are lower cost options like Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco, or the airline could look at smaller Los Angeles area airports like Orange County John Wayne (SNA), Ontario (ONT) or Long Beach (LGB).
Long Beach would be a particularly useful target because US airline JetBlue uses the small airport as a hub, flying to Austin, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York JFK, Oakland, Portland (Oregon), Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington Dulles.
Since JetBlue isn't a member of a global airline network like oneworld or the Star Alliance, it's a more likely candidate than other US airlines.
Other options for US partnerships could include US low-cost carrier Southwest -- which is the largest US airline by number of passengers carried. Southwest has long been rumoured to have an interest in flying to Hawaii and to expand its partner network.
Previous partnerships with ATA, Icelandair and Westjet fizzled out, but codeshares with Mexican airline Volaris are still ongoing.
Southwest has significant operations in Las Vegas, Phoenix, LAX and Oakland in the western US, with flights to dozens of cities across the USA, so Strategic could potentially use one (or more) of those cities as a US hub.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.