Two years ago American Airlines and Qantas announced an expanded joint venture. American was launching Sydney and Auckland service, Qantas Sydney – San Francisco. And they indicated there would be more new routes in the offing as a result of the partnership.
The Obama administration’s Department of Transportation indicated they were going to reject anti-trust immunity for the revenue-sharing partnership. They said they didn’t believe there would be greater growth in service compared to what they expected to happen anyway which was a novel approach. Qantas and American withdrew their application, though they’ve been expected to re-introduce it soon under the Trump administration’s DOT which should be more amenable.
Qantas today has announced new Melbourne – San Francisco service with a Boeing 787, although we don’t yet have a launch date beyond “late 2018.” It appears that some of Qantas’ current 13 weekly Los Angeles flights will shift to San Francisco rather than offering all new service, or entirely net new service.
Qantas in Melbourne
This move surprises me because it front runs any renewed application for a new joint venture with American, and raises the bar for how much service and what new routes would be offered in the absence of such a deal (even if the total number of flights doesn’t grow). Perhaps it won’t matter under a new Department of Transportation, or perhaps it signals Qantas’ willingness to move forward independent of whether or not such an agreement eventually comes to fruition.