While most Americans were mourning the end of the summer over Labor Day Weekend, Qantas was celebrating the beginning of a new era, the era of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. On Saturday, Qantas inaugurated a new route from Melbourne to San Francisco on the aircraft, as well as replaced its iconic Boeing 747-400 aircraft on the Brisbane to New York route via Los Angeles with the Dreamliner.
Connecting Port Phillip Bay to San Francisco Bay
This is the first time that San Francisco is receiving non-stop service from the Southern Australia city of Melbourne, the furthest inland city that Qantas serves non-stop from North America. The non-stop link between the two major cities cuts down travel times by removing the need to either connect in Los Angeles or Sydney and freeing up precious space on Los Angeles and San Francisco to Sydney flights.
“This is great news for San Francisco travelers, as they will have direct flights to Melbourne for the very first time,” said Qantas International CEO Alison Webster. “This will reduce travel times by around two hours which means less time in the air and more time to explore or work in Melbourne.”
Currently, the Australian national airline flies non-stop from Sydney to San Francisco six times weekly using its larger Boeing 747-400 and non-stop between Los Angeles and Melbourne 13 times during the week. Once in Melbourne, onward passengers have the option to connect to 60 destinations via Qantas’ southern hub, especially as Australian tourism and investment to and from the U.S. grows.
“Travel between the United States and Australia continues to grow – with a 13 percent increase in visitors to Australia in the past year. This will allow more entrepreneurs from both countries to explore opportunities and share ideas.”
Qantas plans to operate the route four times weekly on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with the flights to California traveling back in time thanks to the International Date Line. The outbound to San Francisco, QF49, departs Melbourne Tullamarine Airport at 9:40 p.m. and arrives at San Francisco International Airport earlier in the day at 7:00 p.m. after a 14 hour and 20-minute flight across the Pacific.
On the return to Melbourne, QF50 departs San Francisco at 10:00 p.m. and arrives back in Melbourne at 6:30 a.m. after a 15 hour and 30-minute flight. Due to the late departure of the flight and the International Date Line, you’ll arrive in the Land Down Under two days later, although only flying just over half a day to get there.
Passengers on Saturday’s inaugural flight to San Francisco were treated to the typical inaugural festivities, including balloons and cupcakes at the gate and the airline’s kangaroo mascot Matilda handing out business class pajamas to all passengers. Qantas assigned its special livery Dreamliner for the flight called Yam Dreaming, registration VH-ZND, which celebrates Australia’s Aboriginal background.
A Long History on the Route
Before the start of 787 services, Melbourne and San Francisco were connected dating back to 1954 when Qantas first connecting the two cities via multi-stop flight across the Pacific, then flew its round the world flight through San Francisco on its L-1049 Super Constellations in 1958. Although the flights made a stop in Sydney before making their way across the Pacific, stopping in Nadi, Fiji and Honolulu, Hawaii along the way.
Just a year later in 1959, San Francisco received Qantas’ Boeing 707 quad engine aircraft which stopped in San Francisco before continuing on to New York and London. Now, as aircraft have evolved, even more, San Francisco is once again receiving the newest aircraft in Qantas’ fleet with the beginning of Dreamliner service.
“Ninety-eight years ago, Qantas was a start-up itself and in the years since, we have helped pioneer many breakthroughs in connecting Australians with the US,” continued Webster. “In July 1959, we operated the first ever commercial trans-Pacific jet passenger service on a Boeing 707 between Sydney and San Francisco.”
“Although thankfully, unlike the 707 service which had to stop for fuel in Nadi and Honolulu, this flight is a comfortable non-stop overnight journey with passengers arriving in the city ready to make the most of their stay.”
Qantas Brings New Business Class Seat to the U.S.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on the route are Qantas’ newest aircraft, even newer than the double-decker Airbus A380 aircraft that fly between Sydney and faraway locales such as London, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The ultra-modern, fuel-efficient aircraft are configured in a 3-class configuration featuring business, premium economy and economy classes with 236-seats in total.
Qantas touts the Dreamliner’s business class as each seat is a business suite, also referred to as a “mini first class” due to its exclusive and private feel, and next-generation premium economy seats. Even in economy, seats feature extra storage compartments and increased legroom for the long-haul.
To celebrate the opening of the route and promote the new business class product, Qantas and Visit Victoria – the tourism agency responsible for Melbourne – held a pop-up event in downtown San Francisco near AT&T Park. Modeled after the “Bathing Boxes” found on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula southeast of Melbourne.
Each of the boxes features interactive exhibits to showcase Melbourne, as well as the food, wine, wildlife and events of Melbourne, complete with a fully-functional model of Qantas’ business suite on the Dreamliner. The event was held for 9 hours on Saturday, lasting from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., ending just an hour before the first flight from Melbourne landed across town at San Francisco International Airport.
From the U.S., the business suites are currently only found on Dreamliner flights to Melbourne from both Los Angeles and now, San Francisco, as well as from New York and Los Angeles to Brisbane. The suites are also found on the third longest flight in the world, which Qantas operates from Perth to London on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on the modern-day Kangaroo Route to the British capital.
The Dreamliner Goes to New York
While Qantas was promoting its new Dreamliner service to the West Coast, it was quietly phasing out its Boeing 747-400 on the New York route and beginning the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s tenure on the route. After 17 years on the route, Qantas is retiring the 747 from the route that connects New York with Australia via Los Angeles.
The final 747 flight departed New York Friday night to Los Angeles for the final time and proceeded onward to Brisbane. On Sep. 1, the airline’s Dreamliner took over the route, becoming the fifth Qantas aircraft type to fly the route. The aircraft swap is part of Qantas’ effort to retire its aging and inefficient Boeing 747-400s and make the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner the backbone of the long-haul fleet.
The first Dreamliner flight arrived in New York in the late afternoon and showed off itself to New Yorkers below for the first time as it made its way from Breezy Point to JFK on the approach to runway 13L, marking the start of a new era for New York to Australia flying on Qantas. The launch of the San Francisco route on the Dreamliner combined with the start of the aircraft on the New York route shows that Qantas is moving forward headfirst into a new generation.
As the clock struck midnight on Aug. 31 in Australia, it was not only the beginning of a new day in the literal sense, but also in a figurative sense for Qantas, with the morning’s rising sun shining brightly on Qantas’ Dreamliners.
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