From May 16, Qantas will begin direct flights between Australia and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), marking its first non-stop route to the USA that doesn't land on the west coast. Road Worrier looks at the good and the bad consequences that will flow from that decision.
Qantas remains just one of four choices to fly direct from Australia to the US (the others being United, V Australia and Delta), and the most popular of those options. As such, any changes to its routing policy will affect a large number of passengers.
The new flights on offer are QF7 (running direct Sydney to Dallas) and QF8 (which returns via Brisbane). The flight will run four times a week. Qantas is also increasing the frequency of its own flights between Los Angeles and New York, which will now run daily, though there's no getting around the inconvenience of having to deplane when you land.
To attract people to the new route, Qantas had some ludicrously cheap specials (such as $1000 return flights to the US) on offer. But in the long run, cost will only be one factor. Here's my quick take (as a super-frequent US traveller who won't fly on United for international connections under pretty much any circumstances) on what the change means.
An excuse to not visit LAX. LAX is a terrible airport — overcrowded, sprawling, and with not much in the way of apparent logic or facilities. Any excuse not to use it will be welcomed.
Better airline connections. DFW is one of the key "hubs" for American Airlines, Qantas' main partner for US flights. As such, it will offer a much wider range of options for getting to other parts of the States (American runs flights to 186 destinations), and better options in terms of frequency compared to LAX. I'm frequently amazed by how often my US flight routings offer DFW as an option — now it becomes a better choice from an Aussie connections perspective.
Less activity. DFW is a major airport and it's not going to be deserted at any time of the day or night, but in terms of passenger movements it still ranks behind LAX. (In the US, the busiest airport is Chicago O'Hare, followed by LAX and then DFW.)
No more direct San Francisco flights. To accommodate the new service, Qantas is dumping its current direct Sydney-San Francisco service. This was a very handy option, especially for us geeky types who like Silicon Valley. Connections to SFO will now be via LAX (United remains the obvious direct option). You could also do it with American Airlines from DFW, but that's a much longer trip overall. On which point . . .
17 hours in the air. Flying to the US is a massive timesink however you look at it, but the trip time represents a big increase on the 14-odd hours of a typical Australia-US west coast run. That's potentially a benefit if you're headed further east, of course, but it's a lot of time to kill in the air. The return flight via Brisbane is even more time-consuming if you're ultimately heading to Sydney.)
No A380. Only 747-400s will be flying on the new routes. Last year's engine scares aside, the A380 is a comfortable experience, and over 17 hours having the improved entertainment options and access to in-seat power would have been a major boon. With luck, as Qantas' A380 fleet increases, DFW might become an option (it is equipped to handle the larger aircraft, but fuel supplies over such a long flight might be a concern).
No Qantas lounges at DFW. Perhaps the only saving grace of LAX is that the airport lounges in Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley are run by Qantas — they're much more comfortable and better equipped than the equivalent Admirals Club facilities that American Airlines offers when it does lounges on its own. Right now, Qantas doesn't even list an associated lounge for DFW, though I imagine it will strike a deal with American and British Airways to offer some facilities before the arrangements start.
Given the length of my legs and my usual routes, I suspect I'll still be making the LAX connection more often than the DFW one. However, for trips elsewhere in the States, DFW is sometimes going to win out.
Happy to see Qantas hitting Dallas, or did you leave your heart in San Francisco? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has largely fond memories of Dallas Fort Worth airport, but suspects that viewpoint might change over the next year. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.