Qantas CEO bullish on non-stop Chicago flights but Seattle is 'Plan B'

Qantas CEO bullish on non-stop Chicago flights but Seattle is 'Plan B'

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is confident that the airline will launch direct flights to Chicago as part of a joint venture with American Airlines, pending approval of the tie-up by the US Department of Transport.

However, Joyce also hedges that should the DoT not provide anti-trust immunity so that the two airlines can coordinate on flight schedules and pricing, Seattle could get the nod for the non-stop Boeing 787 service which would run daily from Brisbane.

"We are working through the DoT application and we are still confident we will get anti-trust immunity," Joyce told Australian Business Traveller at a media briefing on the airline's FY2018 financial results, which landed as a record $1.6 billion in pre-tax profit. 

"We need that (because) it does influence which destination works," Joyce added.

In addition to being an attractive destination in its own right Chicago also serves as a gateway to the mid-West and a hub for American Airlines, with over 500 daily departures, including a shuttle service to New York with 15 flights running every half-hour on weekdays.

"Chicago is a big American Airlines hub and you do need a partnership to make it effective, we've shown clearly how that happens in Dallas."

But Seattle is waiting in the wings, and Joyce has a dollar each way in this race, saying "we have a great relationship with Alaska Airlines."

As home to technology giants such as Microsoft and Amazon plus 'satellite' offices of Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook, along with a wide range of start-ups, Seattle's tech cred is an obvious drawcard and comes second only to San Francisco as the USA's top tech market.

However, Seattle is also a refreshingly different US city with plenty of appeal in its own right; serves as a  gateway to Canada via Vancouver; and anchors a sizeable cruise market into Alaska and tours through the Canadian Rockies, with several cruising and travel companies already booking blocks of seats on Air Canada flights between Australia and Vancouver.

One way or the other, Joyce says "We've made it fairly clear that we are ambitious to grow North American with more destinations."

"We'll know in next few months (about the DoT application) and then we can make an announcement."

With Qantas' first eight Dreamliners now flying to London and Los Angeles, with New York and San Francisco starting on September 1 and Hong Kong from December, Chicago or Seattle could mark the first route of the next six Boeing 787-9 jets due to arrive from late 2019.

Paris and Germany are already pencilled in as likely starters for the ‘second six’, although Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously said "we’ll be looking at destinations in the Americas, Asia, South Africa and Europe."

Read: London done, now Qantas eyes non-stop flights to Paris

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.


  • Christopher Campbell


    24 Aug, 2018 06:44 am

    I thought the final route for the first 787s was Sydney-Hong Kong?
    No member give thanks

  • Angus  Coventry


    24 Aug, 2018 10:45 am

    syd-hkg is the final route for the first 8 aircraft, not the next 6 that are going to be delivered from next year.
    No member give thanks

  • Christopher Campbell


    24 Aug, 2018 06:46 am

    And how will they start Perth-Paris/Germany with current number of 787s they have in order when they are to replace the B747s?
    No member give thanks

  • patrickk


    24 Aug, 2018 06:47 am

    David, I thought the first 8 Dreamliners were all spoken for with the daily Hong Kong service from the end of March. I thought it would be later next year that Chicago would come into play with the first of the next 6.
    No member give thanks

  • Sanjay Prakash


    24 Aug, 2018 08:06 am

    Ditto with the other comments as HK being the last of the destination of the first 8 dreamliners. With 8 in service, you have 3 committed to London, 2 to LAX from BNE, and the remaining 3 to service SFO, LAX from MEL, and HK from MEL, SYD and BNE. Does not leave any room for any additional services.
    No member give thanks

  • Himeno


    25 Aug, 2018 09:55 pm

    HKG was more "we aren't going to put them on new US routes without JV approval, we can't use them to EU with existing confirmed routes. We have to use them for something else."

    If DOT approves the AA JV, they could easily revert HKG back to A330 and send the 7th and 8th 787s to the US.

    Currently announced 787 routes use 4 aircraft for MEL-LHR and MEL-US, 2 for BNE-LAX-JFK and 2 for HKG.
    No member give thanks

  • Jose Marchena


    24 Aug, 2018 08:45 am

    This comes to no surprise. All indicators suggest that the A350-1000ULR will outperform the 777-8. Airbus probably built the -1000 with room for a stretch (to compete with the 777-9) or increased range (to compete with the 777-80. In the unaltered version, it sits nicely between the two. Brilliant.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn


    24 Aug, 2018 09:41 am

    You’re quite right. Chicago is now likely to be first route of the second six Dreamliners now that Hong Kong is on the board, and I’ve edited article to allow this.

    Member who gave thanks


  • Otto Van De Velde


    24 Aug, 2018 11:39 am

    Fantastic news if the direct link from Melbourne to Seattle is flown. Seattle is the city most like Melbourne, same atmosphere, great restaurants and shops, markets, fish etc. great link to the Alaskan wilderness.
    No member give thanks

  • StudiodeKadent


    24 Aug, 2018 12:09 pm

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the 787-9 would only be able to do Chicago ex. BNE right?

    SYD - ORD is longer than PER - LHR (a route which is basically at the extreme limit of the 787-9 and requires both low-density seating configurations and even special lightweight cutlery and tableware settings). BNE - ORD is only about 150km shorter than PER - LHR.

    SEA is a much easier airport to reach; even a conventionally configured 787-9 could make it from Melbourne.
    No member give thanks

  • Brenton Thevarakam


    24 Aug, 2018 12:16 pm

    That is correct, ORD would only be serviced from BNE at this stage. SEA on the other hand is accessible from all East Coast ports.
    No member give thanks

  • wdeguara


    24 Aug, 2018 01:27 pm

    Could it be that Chicago would be a tag-on leg for the Seattle service ? Much in the same way to how the aircraft that currently operates BNE - LAX has the extra LAX - JFK leg tagged onto it.
    No member give thanks

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    24 Aug, 2018 07:00 pm

    Some months back, AJ noted that either the ORD or SEA services would originate in BNE.
    No member give thanks

  • USFlyer


    24 Aug, 2018 12:21 pm

    Sorry to nitpick but Olympia is the state capital of Washington, not Seattle
    Member who gave thanks


  • colin


    24 Aug, 2018 01:56 pm

    I recently heard from a CSM on a flight from Brisbane that early next year the 787 service from Brisbane to LAX will be double daily. wonder where all these extra dreamliners are coming from
    No member give thanks

  • GregXL


    24 Aug, 2018 02:51 pm

    3 @ daily and 4 @ double daily shown in the schedule. I think this was announced a while back.
    No member give thanks

  • CWT Traveller

    CWT Traveller

    24 Aug, 2018 05:34 pm

    As a regular SEA traveller, I am hanging out for a one stop service from Perth. Looks like CX will get there first but the connections are woeful. Bring on PER-BNE-SEA I say!!
    No member give thanks

  • CWT Traveller

    CWT Traveller

    24 Aug, 2018 05:35 pm

    And yes, I know EK has a one stop service, but DXB-SEA is 2-3-2 in J for 15 hours on an 777, no thanks.
    No member give thanks

  • Vik Jay


    26 Aug, 2018 08:41 pm

    I’d pick Death over an eK 2-3-2!
    No member give thanks

  • BatteryBen


    25 Aug, 2018 05:25 pm

    I’m flying SYD - ORD next week and home the following SEA - SYD (both via LAX) so, selfishly, my vote is: BOTH!

    No member give thanks

  • charlie18


    26 Aug, 2018 12:00 am

    Was just there earlier tonight - an improvement on the previous cluster*** - but goodness me, what is it with Melbourne and the toilets in the lounge. They've been a consistent disgrace - stains on the bowl, urine on the back of the seat - 4 times in a row!
    No member give thanks

  • Jay


    26 Aug, 2018 10:06 pm

    Direct flights to Seattle would be a fantastic opportunity for Qantas and the Australian business community. (It's a very "Australian" city, in many ways.)

    Seattle is fast becoming the next San Francisco; it has businesses beating a pathway to the city to relocate, it has an enormous tech scene, and has a red hot economy. Exactly the sort of economy we should be establishing trade with.

    It makes a lot of sense to establish direct links there. It's also Alaska's primary hub, with an enormous range of regional connections. Very excited to see how this pans out!
    Member who gave thanks


  • Vik Jay


    26 Aug, 2018 10:48 pm

    I’m all for Seattle as I live in Seattle. QF, just please don’t land between 11am - 2pm as the whole intl terminal is crowded!!
    No member give thanks

  • Goat Guy

    Goat Guy

    27 Aug, 2018 09:19 am

    I reckon they'll drop Perth to London and make it Perth to one of the European destinations. Improves their diversion rate and once the 380's get refurbed I'd imagine that the FF's will settle on London trips via Singapore.
    No member give thanks

  • Chun Wah Dou


    27 Aug, 2018 11:43 am

    Good to have SYD-ORD. Although not a cheap one but gives pressure for airlines to be more competitive on price, e.g SYD-HKG-ORD or SYD-NRT-ORD.
    No member give thanks

  • markpk


    27 Aug, 2018 05:48 pm

    BNE-ORD makes so much sense... I was talking to a QF staffer at BNE last month and he noted internally the preferred option is ORD.

    Hopefully they can make it work in terms of payload!
    No member give thanks


19 Jul, 2019 08:03 am


Forgot Password

If you’ve forgotten your password, simply enter your email address below, then click 'Submit'. We’ll send you an email to re-activate your account and enter a new password.


Resend activation email

If you have not received the activation email, simply enter your email address below, then click 'Submit'. We’ll send you an email containing the activation link.