MIAMI — The morning of December 18th marked a special day for travel between the United States and Australia. Qantas resumed non-stop service between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Sydney (SYD). Service begins five times per week, and then increases to six times per week in February 2016. The flight is operated by the rare Boeing 747-400ER, seating 353 passengers with 14 in First Class, 52 in Business Class, 32 in Premium Economy, and 255 in Economy. SFO currently has flights to SYD on United Airlines, but this new service will allow passengers to have a large number of destinations within Australia to which they can connect with, from SYD. SFO also has flights to Auckland (AKL) on Air New Zealand. United Airlines will launch new service to AKL and Fiji Airways will start service to Nadi (NAN), both in the summer of 2016.
In June 2015, Qantas and American Airlines announced a joint venture for their flights across the Pacific. They will shift to a “route revenue share agreement”. In the agreement, American Airlines will begin flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and SYD. Qantas will cut 5 flights per week from LAX, 4 to SYD and one to Brisbane (BNE), giving them an extra plane, which will be sent to SFO instead. In total, this will increase the amount of seats in the US-Australia market by 9 % (Qantas Newsroom, 2015). “We expect to see the strong growth in U.S. visitors coming to Australia continue, because of the strengthening U.S. economy but also because of the investment AA will make in promoting their new route. The world’s largest airline will be talking a lot more about Australia in their home market, and that’s great news for tourism,” said Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.
Qantas has a rich history in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sir Kingsford Smith, famous Australian World War I aviator began the first ever trans-Pacific flight to Australia in nearby Oakland (OAK). The flight was operated by the “Southern Cross”, a Fokker F.VII on loan to Smith from American businessman and aviator, Allan Hancock. A scale model of the “Southern Cross” hangs from the ceiling of the Louis A. Turpin Aviation Museum in the International Terminal of SFO. In 1954, Qantas began service to SFO with the Lockheed Constellation, stopping in NAN and Honolulu (HNL). In 1959, Qantas switched service to the Boeing 707-138, a smaller version of the 707-120, used for the long segments in the route.
In 2006, marking eleven years without the “Flying Kangaroo”, Qantas resumed service to SFO from SYD. This time, the service was nonstop. In addition, they operated a 5th freedom flight from SFO to Vancouver (YVR) using the B747-400ER which would have normally spent the entire day on the ground in SFO. The continuing flight to YVR ended in 2008, but the flight to SYD lived on. In 2011, Qantas decided to terminate their service to SFO. Although the loads were decent, they recognized that there would be a greater demand if they moved the flight to Dallas (DFW). There are far more opportunities for connections in North America on their Oneworld partner, American Airlines.
Qantas is the fourth new airline to begin service to SFO this year after Turkish Airways, Copa Airlines, and Air India. To commemorate that event, December 18th was named “Qantas Day” in the city of San Francisco by Mayor Edwin Lee. Australia, a country to visit that is on the bucket lists of many Americans, is now very easily reachable with this new non-stop service. Hopefully, the third time’s a charm and Qantas will be here for the long run.