Get ready to smell hot dogs and patriotism. In a boon week for Australians who travel to the United States, two major airlines have announced new plans for services to New York in the next 12 months.
Following a successful non-stop research flight from New York to Sydney, Australian airline Qantas announced plans to stage two more test flights – including London to Sydney and another New York to Sydney – to gather data in preparation to begin commercial services.
Let the sun shine
Part of 'Project Sunrise', these special flights will gather data on the health and well-being of passengers and crew over ultra-long routes to aid crew rostering, scheduling and in-flight services. Changes have also been made to meals and cabin lighting, along with other measures, with the aim to improve the flight experience and reduce the severity of jet lag.
"This is a really significant first for aviation," said Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO. "Hopefully, it's a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other."
Time is money
Currently, the Sydney to New York route takes between 21 to 27 hours with Qantas, depending on the direction, and has passengers stopping at either Auckland, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort Worth or San Francisco. There is also a route that takes passengers via Brisbane, before continuing on to LA and beyond. It's little wonder, then, that Qantas is keen to offer passengers a more streamlined service.
The company has indicated it will make a formal announcement about a non-stop Sydney to New York service by the end of 2019. Business travellers, mark your calendars.
As if in response to this announcement, across the ditch, Air New Zealand has announced a new direct service from Auckland to New York, which will begin in October, 2020.
The Sydney to New York route with Air New Zealand currently takes passengers via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston or Chicago, depending on the direction, with the domestic leg carried by United Airlines. This trip will take you anywhere between 24 to 27 hours.
For business travellers along this major flight corridor, the cost and time savings could be substantial. While pricing is yet to be announced, shaving up to six hours off your travel time comes close to gaining an extra work day.
Let's not forget the general health benefits you'll gain when you don't have to endure the nightmare of collecting your luggage at LAX - priceless.
Another positive is the elimination of business class flights where the domestic leg within the US must be flown in economy, because the aircraft has only one class.
In terms of cost, both Qantas and Air New Zealand will have the opportunity to claw back revenue lost to code-sharing partners and potentially pass savings onto passengers. This will be particularly attractive for those flying at the pointy end, where current business class fares to New York sit between $7000 to $15,000, depending on the time of year and fare code.
The fine print
However, these two route changes may cause some to reconsider their flight plans in relation to their preferred frequent flyer program. If you juggle airlines and flight legs to maximise your point earnings across countries, there's some fine print.
For example, a business trip between Sydney and LA, flown on Qantas, on your Qantas Frequent Flyer membership, which then changes to a different booking for an on-going leg to New York with United, on its MileagePlus program, would earn maximum points and status across both programs.
When flown with a single carrier – Air New Zealand or Qantas – your earning potential will change, with points and status awarded by that one airline.
Bear in mind, there have been no announcements relating to changes to status benefits for airline alliance programs to balance out any shift in points accrual between carriers like this; although it is definitely possible.
For now, your business trips between Australia and New York will still chew through a day or more of your time. In the meantime, you can dream in your flat bed of what to do with all those hours you'll save in the future.