A United 787-8, which is also uncomfortable in economy at nine across.

A somewhat unequal contest for epic flights between America and Australia has broken out with United announcing non-stops between Sydney and Houston with daily Boeing 787-9s from January 20 next year.

Houston is slightly closer to Sydney than Dallas Fort Worth, which has become very well established as a US gateway route for Qantas, which flies it daily with Airbus A380s.

There is really no contest when it comes to passenger amenity between the much larger and better appointed Qantas airliner and that of United, and as Australian Business Traveller points out, the US carrier’s flights will apparently not feature its latest premium cabin product when this new service begins.

However, despite various controversies, such as the smashing of passenger guitars, and the dragging of a paying passenger screaming off one of its jets to make way for staff to travel, the compassionate and caring US carrier commands a broad customer base in America, where flying is character building and people are big, and tough, and happy to get screwed into the ground because it’s a freedom thang. Where Qantas, despite years of high level diplomatic representations, still gets spelled with a U at times, and gets confused with koala bears in a land where some learned folk think ‘girt by sea’ Australia is actually Austria, even though it is girt between Bavaria and South Tyrol and primarily German speaking.

Qantas also adds its brand new 787-9s to the US route mix later this year, with Melbourne-Los Angeles services and its application of further Dreamliners to Melbourne-Dallas Fort Worth flights has been widely anticipated at some later stage to augment the SYD-DFW A380s.

Unless someone starts non-stop flights between Australian cities and, let’s guess, Denver or Chicago, in the next year, Dallas Fort Worth and Houston look set to be the deepest routes into the continental US until someone like Delta or United who have A350s on order decide to acquire some of the ultra long range versions of that Airbus available from late next year, and try for Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta hosts the world’s largest airport, where Delta, the world’s largest airline, has America’s largest range of domestic US connections. Delta’s Australian commercial partner Virgin Australia has been silent on the need for the big American to upstage Qantas and United with a veritable shuttle service of non-stop widebodies to Atlanta.

The jet that will fly both ways non-stop between any of New York City’s airports and Sydney with a commercially viable load hasn’t been devised, as yet, despite Qantas encouraging Airbus and Boeing to go the extra thousand miles or so since late 2005. That’s 12 years of being told to ‘get lost’ by the big jet makers. Qantas deserves an award for persistence. (And it will win through, one day.)

Airbus and Boeing really need to pay more attention to what Qantas wants, which is a few billion dollars worth of additional investment by the aircraft and jet engine makers. As a reward, Qantas might need six such jets to provide customers in Melbourne and Sydney with their own daily non-stop to the big Apple. And another half dozen to do the same for London non-stops. The big jet makers just don’t get it. They could get a Qantas order for a dozen jets with a unit development cost of a mere $US half billion each.

More seriously, United’s move may well reflect an effort to minimise any future loss of traffic should Air NZ launch Auckland-New York City non-stops and thus aggregate Australia originating traffic for such a route at a much more civilised airport than would be possible at any continental US gateway short of NYC.

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