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
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
“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.