Not yet announced in Australia, the Delta Air Lines website says it will start daily non-stops between Sydney and Los Angeles on 1 July with Boeing 777-200LRs.

Presumably all the government approvals are in place. Under the US-Australia air traffic treaty, any American carrier can fly here on request. Delta, which recently merged with another major US carrier Northwest, is offering American customers a $US 499 return fare for use in the first two months of service.

It also refers to enhanced connectivity with Alaskan Airlines, which at least until recently, was an important source of traffic feeds for Qantas.

The Delta move on Sydney means a big rock has been dropped in the Pacific pond, and just where the competitive tsunami goes will become more apparent in the near future.

It is unlikely this development comes as a surprise to either Qantas or Virgin Blue. It may well have helped take the management focus in Qantas off a patently unworkable merger with British Airways and onto a more urgent competitive challenge.

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