From 2020 travellers from the UK to Australia should have the option of a radically different stopover location: Chicago.
Qantas says it expects to announce a new route from the Illinois city to Brisbane once final approval for a joint venture with American Airlines (AA) is received.
The Australian airline will also announce a link from San Francisco to the capital of Queensland. But while there are many nonstop flights from California to Australia, there is none so far from Chicago.
Brisbane has been chosen as the gateway because, crucially, it is 331 miles closer to Chicago than is Sydney – the main Qantas hub in Australia.
The flight distance from Chicago to Brisbane is 8,901 miles, compared with the 9,009-mile nonstop trip from Heathrow to Perth which Qantas launched in 2018.
But the extra 40 minutes of flight time to Sydney would add pressure to the trip and make a refuelling stop in Fiji a significant possibility.
The route will be flown by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, as used for the Heathrow-Perth flight.
The direct track from Chicago to Brisbane begins by flying due west, but then bears south and crosses the west coast halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The vast majority of the 17-hour flight is over the Pacific, flying south of Hawaii and over New Caledonia.
A day will be lost crossing the International Date Line from east to west. But on the return trip passengers can reclaim it – with an arrival in Chicago at roughly the same time, and date, as the departure from Brisbane.
Assuming the Qantas-AA venture is approved, the US carrier is likely to offer good connections and fares from Heathrow via Chicago.
In north Queensland, however, Cathay Pacific is cutting its flights between Hong Kong and the travellers’ favourite of Cairns – a town offering diving tuition and trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.
After 26 years as the main foreign airline serving Cairns, the airline says the route is no longer profitable and will axe the link at the end of October.
But according to the Routes Online website earlier this year, Thomas Cook Airlines may launch a new link from Gatwick via Goa in India to Cairns in January 2020.
Thomas Cook is currently considering offers for its airline, and schedules for 2020 are not confirmed.
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