On Wednesday, Qantas resumed flights to New York City for the first time in more than three years. It’s another sign that airline networks are returning to normal after the Covid shock. It’s also a sign of the Australian airline’s keen interest in U.S. expansion.
For years, Qantas served New York’s JFK airport from Australia via Los Angeles. This time, it’s flying there via Auckland, using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for the 16-hour journey. The airline flies nonstop to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, enabling one-stop connections to New York for travelers in all three cities. The competition will be tough, however, with Air New Zealand also offering Auckland-New York JFK nonstops.
For Qantas, the Auckland stopover is an interim measure. As soon as new ultra-long-range Airbus A350-1000s arrive—they’re currently expected in 2025—commercial service from Australia to New York will be possible nonstop. Initially, Qantas will fly to New York from Sydney, perhaps adding Melbourne thereafter. In May 2022, Qantas ordered 12 A350-1000s, which it also intends to use for nonstop flights from eastern Australia to London.
Until the new Airbus planes arrive, the New York route will go from Auckland, operating three times a week in each direction. In October, which coincides with the start of Australia and New Zealand’s peak summer tourist season, Qantas will increase weekly frequencies to four. Traveling on the inaugural Auckland-New York flight on Wednesday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce remarked, “While the world has changed dramatically since the start of Covid, one thing that hasn’t changed is the lure of New York City.”
In a statement, Joyce said the new flights to America’s largest city have been well received since the airline started offering them last year. “We’ve seen very strong demand since our New York flights went on sale.” Prior to the resumption of New York service, Qantas offered its customers access to New York via its U.S. joint venture partner American Airlines. (It jointly markets flights with Alaska Airlines as well). Travelers could book a Qantas flight from Australia to either Los Angeles or Dallas-Fort Worth, switching to an American flight for the onward journey to New York. The new Auckland-New York nonstops are expected to attract travelers originating in both Australia and New Zealand, flying to the Big Apple for leisure and business. But Qantas hopes to stimulate outbound tourism originating in New York as well.
Even before the arrival of the ultra-long-range A350-1000s, and Boeing’s equivalent B777-8s, airlines have used A350-900s and B787-9s to add long-distance routes. According to Cirium Diio, airlines this quarter are flying 30 routes that are greater than 8,000 miles, up from 11 ten years ago. Qantas operates five of these 30, including the newly-launched Auckland-New York route. The other four are Perth-London, Perth-Rome, Sydney-Dallas DFW, and Melbourne-Dallas DFW. The longest of these is Perth-London at roughly 9,000 miles. Sydney-New York nonstop will be nearly 10,000 miles.
The return to New York separately reflects a major push by Qantas to expand its U.S. presence, supported by partners American and Alaska. The Australian airline currently operates as many as seven flights a day from Australia and New Zealand to the U.S., including flights to San Francisco and Honolulu. It serves Los Angeles nonstop from all three of its top markets (Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane). Its Sydney and Melbourne nonstops to Dallas-Fort Worth take advantage of American’s large DFW hub operation. Qantas was planning to debut service to Chicago, another American hub, before the pandemic. The launch was scheduled for April 2020, the month in which global aviation came to a standstill as a result of the Covid pandemic.