Qantas Sees Potential In Flying To Seattle

Seattle is on the radar at Qantas as the airline reboots its international flying and targets new or long ago abandoned destinations. Adding Seattle to the timetables would see Qantas serve a total of four airports dotted along North America’s west coast.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce is eyeing Seattle as a future Qantas destination. Photo: Seattle

Qantas boss sees big potential in Seattle flights

Speaking to Executive Traveller earlier this week, Qantas boss Alan Joyce discussed his plans for North America and said Seattle was a destination that had big potential.

“We’ve always said we would consider destinations like Seattle, as well as reinstating Dallas, so our potential there is huge.”

Before the early 2020 travel crunch, Qantas flew to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Dallas, and New York JFK. It was due to add Chicago to the list in April, but Qantas suspended all its international flying in the run-up to the first flight.

Those flights across the Pacific were usually good money-spinners for Qantas. Two years ago, Simple Flying reported one of those routes, the Sydney – Dallas city pair serviced by an A380, generated nearly US$430 million annually for Qantas.

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Seattle Airport (pictured) sees plenty of aircraft, but no Qantas planes to date. Photo: Don Watson / Sea-Tac Airport

Seattle potentially a nice fit for the Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner

With Seattle a hub for clean technology, health services, IT, and a hotbed for startups, there are plenty of Australians with business to do in Washington state. And presumably, they’ll eventually want to fly home. No airline flies nonstop between Seattle and any Australian city.

There are 7,750 miles (12,472 kilometers) to cover flying between Sydney and Seattle, comfortably with the range of Qantas’ international workhorse plane, the Boeing 787-9. When Qantas gets its North American network back up and running, the airline will send a combination of Dreamliners and A380s across the Pacific.

But don’t expect an announcement on Seattle in the immediate short term. As Qantas reboots international flying, it is targeting the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market. Alas, the VFR market into Seattle from Australia is minimal. Seattle may have to wait until corporate travel gets up some steam again.

And that might take a while. Qantas resumed flying into Los Angeles amid much fanfare on November 1. Melbourne – Los Angeles flights have also since resumed. But after the initial need to travel rush, things have settled. Omicron, border uncertainty, and the general hassle and expense involved in international flying right now have dampened demand from all but the keenest.

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A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner can easily do the distance between Seattle and Sydney. Photo: Qantas

Transpacific flying slow to recover

Quietly, Qantas has indefinitely “paused” the return of its Sydney-San Francisco and Brisbane-San Francisco flights. Passengers booked on these routes have received emails from Qantas saying their flights are canceled.

Just as quietly, some Sydney – Los Angeles Qantas flights have also recently been canceled and passengers sent down to Melbourne to board QF93 and help fill that flight. With Qantas expected to post a half-yearly loss of around US$800 million, you can’t blame the airline for trying to cut loss-making flights where it can.

The air corridor between Australia and the US is crowded in good times. In 2019, over 3.3 million passengers arrived into Australia from the US or departed Australia for the US. There were nearly 12,500 nonstop flights that year, and the Los Angeles – Sydney city pair was the ninth busiest international route in and out of Australia.

Those transpacific good times will eventually return. Vancouver, San Francisco, Dallas, and JFK will return to the timetables. The long-awaited Brisbane – Chicago service will start. Following that, well, Alan Joyce seems keen on Seattle. That would leave the US southeast quarter as the remaining unchartered territory for Qantas.

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