With one of the most bizarre excuses yet given for dropping a proposed new service to this part of the world United Airlines has blamed Southwest Airlines, the US low cost giant, for its decision to cancel plans for a Dreamliner 787 service from early next year between Houston, Texas, and Auckland, New Zealand.
The decision is in truth a dummy spit typical of free market talking US legacy carriers getting outraged by the success of Southwest Airlines. It is no different from the howling that comes from Air France or Lufthansa every time Ryanair makes their financial results look second rate.
As most business travellers would well understand, not a single potential passenger for a United non-stop flight to Houston via Auckland or vice versa is going to be lost by a recent decision in the US to allow Hobby Airport, Houston’s smaller airport, to be developed by Southwest for international flights to Mexico, or Canada, which almost completely exhausts the range capabilities of its single class all Boeing 737 fleet.
Yet United insists that allowing Southwest to do its business, in their turf, is next to the end of the world (which may be true, if they don’t get their domestic competitive act together and stop whinging) and will dilute connecting traffic to the point that Auckland is unviable. The truth is quite different, since anyone flying into the larger Bush airport at Houston (named after the 41st President of the USA not his son, the 43rd President) would be considerably discouraged and inconvenienced in terms of connecting to any Southwest service at a different airport, and it is implausible that anyone starting a trip to Australia via Auckland on United would begin or end the epic with a Southwest rather than an all inclusive United fare.
The only conclusion that can be rationally drawn from United removing the 787 service to Auckland from its 2013 schedules is that it has been ditched in favor of Denver-Tokyo flights to take on the 787 onslaught apparently planned on this and similar so called secondary Japan-US routes by Japan Airlines.
All of which is of course good news for the Dreamliner business case, which is to connect city pairs which are too small for 777s or 747s, but bad news for Australian and New Zealander travellers looking forward to an opportunity to fly the 787 to the US in the immediate future.
This leaves the tantalising prospect of an Air-India service between Sydney and Melbourne and apparently one or more cities in India, from a date in this September, as the candidate for the first scheduled 787 service to Australia.
This is tantalising because of the challenges facing Air-India, which claims to be nearly broke, and is trying to sell off other parts of its fleet to the likes of Air Canada amid intense labor disputes.
It could be that the first 787 scheduled flights in Australia will be flown by Jetstar from August next year, assuming nothing delays its plans, which include early flights to Denpasar and Honolulu.
However the thought of 313 tiny seats crammed into a Jetstar 787-8 for flights of between 5.5 and 9.5 hours duration is not necessarily the stuff of dreams, or Dreamliners.