Still awaiting OK for closer ties with Qantas, AA launches New Zealand route

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American Airlines on Thursday will launch the third route to come about since proposing an immunized joint venture with Australian carrier Qantas.

The flight, between Los Angeles and Auckland, is the first to compete with Air New Zealand on the route.

Its launch comes six months after Qantas began San Francisco-Sydney service and American began Los Angeles-Sydney service. 

All three routes emerged out of the proposed Qantas-American joint venture. Though the joint venture has been approved in Australia, the U.S. Department of Transportation is still reviewing the request for antitrust immunity, where it faces opposition from Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue. 

In an interview Wednesday with Travel Weekly, Qantas CEO Gareth Evans touted the growing connectivity that the Qantas-American partnership is bringing to routes between the U.S, Australia and New Zealand.

“It gives New Zealand more options for people in the U.S., and this is absolutely going to enhance that network proposition that we offer,” Evans said.

He added that a key benefit of the new American service to New Zealand is that for the first time travelers will be able to make the popular three-way trips between the U.S., New Zealand and Australia on a unified itinerary.

“We will be the only group that offers that triangulation route,” he said.

Evans wouldn’t say what other routes Qantas might launch should it receive antitrust immunity in partnership with American. But he said that no such service is likely to commence until at least October 2017, when Qantas begins taking delivery of eight new Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft. 

“For the time being, our focus is nailing down the new route,” he said.

Qantas currently offers six U.S-Australia routes under its own livery, including to Melbourne and Brisbane from Los Angeles and to Sydney from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth and Honolulu.

The launch of the American flight to Auckland comes amid growing competition on routes between the U.S. and Oceania. In March, United and Air New Zealand responded to the American-Qantas joint venture plan by applying for their own joint venture.

Air New Zealand already operates daily service between San Francisco and Auckland. United will begin its own San Francisco-Auckland flights on July 1. 

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