Qantas is bringing the start date of its Chicago flights forward. A Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner was slated to start jetting between Brisbane and Chicago four times a week from April 20, 2020. Now, the first flight has been brought forward by five days to April 15, 2020.
The Qantas website has QF85 pushing back from Brisbane at 15:30 on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, for a same day arrival in Chicago at 16:40. Flights will depart Brisbane every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Brisbane bound flights will depart Chicago every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. QF86 will depart from Chicago at 21:50 and arrive in Brisbane at 06:10 two days later. Flying time is 17 plus hours.
The 14,326-kilometre route is the second-longest in the Qantas network and the fourth-longest in the world.
As Zac George in Points From The Pacific notes, the extra flights do not mean there is a slew of seats available for points redemptions. There are seats available, but the pricing is absurd. The sole exception is economy classic reward seats for 51,200 points across some dates in either direction.
Flight operated by 787-9 Dreamliner
The flights will be operated by a 787-9 Dreamliner. Qantas has 10 in its fleet, the most recent just delivered. VH-ZNI’s inaugural Qantas flight was operating the first Project Sunrise research flight in October 2019. VH-ZNJ’s first Qantas flight was operating the second Project Sunrise research flight this month.
The 63-meter aircraft carries 236 passengers over three cabins. In the main economy cabin, the 166 passengers are accommodated in a 3-3-3 configuration. Midway along the aircraft is the 28 passenger premium economy cabin utilizing a 2-3-2 configuration. Towards the front of the aircraft is the business class cabin, accommodating 42 passengers in 1-2-1 lie-flat business suites.
Qantas has only been operating the 787-9 Dreamliner for two years. Unsurprisingly, passengers traveling in business class have had few complaints about the hard product. Passengers in premium economy have noted the lack of seat pitch, an issue carried over from the premium economy cabin on the Qantas A380s.
Back in the main economy cabin, expectations are more muted, but a lot of the feedback from passengers on these long-haul flights suggests they prefer the more roomy ambiance of larger planes like the A380.
Why the Chicago service makes sense
But this new service through to the Midwest remains a compelling proposition for many travelers. On the US side, it avoids Los Angeles and the immigration issues and delays associated with that airport.
At the Australian end, Brisbane is a relatively easy airport to use and transit through. While the international terminal is separated from the domestic terminal, there is a free transfer bus that runs every 10 minutes outside the terminals from early morning until late at night.
Transiting in Brisbane makes even more sense if you are traveling onwards to regional Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia or South Australia.
With the new flights between Brisbane and San Francisco set to commence in February 2020, Brisbane will have direct Qantas connections to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. In addition, the aircraft operating the Brisbane – Los Angeles flight continues onto New York’s John F Kennedy Airport (albeit under a different flight number).
What’s next on the horizon for Qantas out of Brisbane? A lot of people are mentioning Seattle.