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Direct Flights from the USA to Australia: Qantas Flight 8: Dallas (DFW) to Brisbane (BNE)
New Direct Flight from the USA to Australia
Qantas introduced direct services from Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) to Brisbane (BNE) in May 2011, the first airline to introduce a direct routing between the USA and Australia that didn’t depart from the West Coast of the US. At the time of introduction this flight was the longest routing for a Boeing 747-400ER with a scheduled flight time of almost 16 hours. The Dallas to Brisbane service launched as a 4 day a week service but its popularity has seen it move to a daily schedule.
Until Qantas introduced the route, all departures of direct flights from mainland US bound for Australia originated in Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO). Qantas also beat United to the market with such a routing. United has been delaying the introduction of a Houston (IAH) to Auckland (AKL) routing due to continued delays with Boeings 787 Dreamliner. That service has a tentative launch date of mid 2012.
I have now flown this route a number of times since its introduction 12 months ago. My last flight was earlier this month, so while the experience is still fresh in my mind here are my thoughts on the Qantas Dallas to Brisbane (Sydney) direct flight.
Unique Routing of Qantas Flights QF8 and QF7
Though Brisbane (BNE) is the first stop in Australia for Qantas Flight QF8, it isn’t the final destination for the routing. The final destination is Sydney (SYD). The range of the Boeing 747 aircraft utilized on this route means that the flight must land in Brisbane rather than Sydney – the city from which the return flight to the US departs from.
The stop in Brisbane is technically a refueling stop, but for passengers with destinations within Australia other than Sydney it is the termination of the flight.
The return journey for US originating passengers departs from Sydney with a direct service into Dallas Fort Worth.
Why can the Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth leg be done direct but not the Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney? One word: Headwinds. The direct flight from the US to Australia is always longer than the flight from Australia to the USA.
Less time in the air – Shorter connection times
The major advantage of this routing for passengers originating from the Eastern United States is the elimination of an expensive and time consuming transit/ transfer in Los Angeles or (San Francisco).
While a Los Angeles to Sydney Direct flight puts travelers in the air for just over 14 hours, the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) to Brisbane flight takes just under 16 hours. The difference is less than 2 hours. Yet a connection from LAX to DFW (for arguments sake) is a 3 hour flight.
This may not seem like a lot, but I promise you after 15 hours in an economy class seat on an overnight flight, that hour and a half to two hours is a welcome reduction in total travel time.
The difference is due to the flight path the two direct flights take. The DFW to Brisbane flight crosses into Mexico shortly after its Texas Takeoff giving the flight a more direct route Down Under than the west coast departures.
Another bonus? The Dallas routing pushes up against the maximum range of the Boeing 747-400 ER equipment that Qantas flies on the route. There is so little fuel left in the wings when the flight arrives at its destination, you are guaranteed not to be sent into a holding pattern for landing.
Avoiding Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
Depending on which flights you take from Los Angeles: to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne will determine your LAX departure Terminal. The Sydney flights leave from American Airline Terminal 4 and the others from Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Regardless which terminal you leave from there is no getting around that LAX is an old and dingy airport even after the recent refurbishments of the Tom Bradley Terminal. There are limited restaurant choices beyond security (if any!) and you will be accosted by hawkers as you walk between terminals in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal is also a very busy terminal, where airline and airport staff seems constantly over-burdened. Clearing security at Tom Bradley can be especially time-consuming.
Departing from Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
As dark and dingy as LAX is DFW is bright and airy. The Qantas check in at DFW even has room for lounges where passengers with bad connections can wait in comfort for check in to open. A couple was even laying flat catching a few zzzz’s while I was there.
QF8 departs Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) sometime between 8pm and 10pm depending on the time of year. The flight I took in May, 2012 departed at 9.55pm. Check in opened at 5.55pm 4 hours before the flight’s departure. There were no more than a half dozen passengers waiting at check in, which made the experience pleasant for both passengers and airline staff who were able to engage in social chit chat with passengers as they checked in. Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but there never seemed to be the time for social niceties at Tom Bradley (LAX).
Security was security. It took time, and on the day I travelled (close to that anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s death) the full body scanners were in use.
Once through security, there are many shopping and eating options while you wait for your flight. If you’re a Tex-Mex fan I can recommend the Queso, Margaritas and Enchiladas at Cantina Laredo.
Arriving at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) on the return leg
DFW has two major advantages for any traveler connecting to a domestic US flight after their Qantas QF7 Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth leg:
- Dallas (DFW) is American Airlines biggest US hub giving passengers access to a wide array of codeshare flights connecting with their international flight.
- QF7 from Sydney arrives at DFW earnly to mid afternoon (again depending on the time of year). DFW boasts an on airfield Grand Hyatt hotel with surprisingly reasonable rack rates, let along discount rates. The flight from Sydney is long and if you fly economy sleep can be difficult. The Grand Hyatt hotel is accessed almost immediately outside Customs and Immigration. In 30 minutes you can be in a room overlooking the airfield and connect to a domestic flight the following morning…
Qantas Equipment – Boeing 747-400ER
Qantas have recently refitted their Boeing 747 fleet to the same standard as their Airbus A380 fleet (which flies the Los Angeles (LAX) route exclusively). This included the Airbus A380 seats which provide for additional seating space in economy (and inch is a big deal after 16 hours), upgraded touchscreen Video on Demand (VOD) system, and laptop power in economy.
These may seem like small things but your iPad not running out of juice midflight is a big deal on a long haul flight – even with the smorgasbord of entertainment choices the Qantas VOD system provides.
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Your destination is Sydney
And your itinerary doesn’t include a Queensland component. I guess until the potential introduction of Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipment on this route, the re-fuelling stop in Brisbane could be seen as an annoyance.
16 hours in the air is too long
Academically, it seems that an extra hour and a half in the air isn’t that much considering the routing reduces your overall travel time (assuming connections within the US or Australia). But in practice the final hours of a long haul flight are interminable. An hour at the end of a 14 hour journey feels the same as 3 at the beginning. Just saying. For me it’s worth it for other’s it may not be.
You want to fly the Airbus A380
The Qantas Airbus A380 fleet flies only the West Coast route between the USA and Australia. Given the range of the A380 aircraft there is no plans to put the A380 in service on the DFW to BRI (SYD) route.
Dallas (DFW) to Sydney (SYD) Direct!
From October 2014, Qantas will be flying the Dallas to Sydney route direct! Until now Qantas has been flying a Boeing 747 on this route. The tip from Dallas to Sydney required a landing in Brisbane (BNE) on the US to Australia leg of the route.
October will see Qantas flying the A380 on this routing cutting out the landing in Brisbane. Qnatas now flies the Sydney to Dallas (and Dallas to Sydney) daily.
Run out of Fuel
The Qantas Dallas to Brisbane direct routing pushes up against the maximum range of the Boeing 747-400ER aircraft that Qantas flies on the route. That means unusual circumstances in weather, headwinds or air traffic could see the aircraft run short on fuel prior to reaching its destination.
This has meant diverting to Noumea for a refueling stop in the past resulting in a two hour delayed.
Luggage left behind…
There has also been an instance of luggage being left behind in Dallas Fort Worth. Again the distance flown on the flight was blamed. The flight can only take-off with so much weight and expect to arrive at its destination with fuel…