D/FW is a Contender for Non-Stop Flight to Australia

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is apparently high on the list to snag a new nonstop flight to Australia from Qantas Airways.

The Sydney-based carrier is negotiating to buy updated long-range aircraft capable of taking passengers nonstop from Australia to the Metroplex, according to The Australian, a daily newspaper based in Sydney.

"The possibilities of us flying to a destination like Dallas are very much on our drawing board," Peter Gregg, the airline's chief financial officer, said in the newspaper.

Joe Lopano, D/FW Airport's executive vice president of marketing and terminal management, told the Star-Telegram that he has been talking off and on with Qantas executives about flying here since before the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

But that's when airline traffic dropped off, and so did interest in flying to D/FW Airport for a little while, Lopano said.

But interest has renewed.

Lopano said he met with Qantas officials at their Sydney headquarters for a couple of days in February, and he's been talking frequently with the airline's executives based in the U.S.

Qantas is particularly interested in D/FW Airport because it's the largest hub for the airline's One World Alliance code-share partner, American Airlines.

Fort Worth-based American would be happy to see Qantas' arrival and would further underline the importance of its home-based airport, said Tim Wagner, a company spokesman.

"That's the value of D/FW Airport as a hub to the Metroplex and American as the hub carrier," Wagner said.

Beyond passengers who could take connecting flights to American's 150 other destinations, Lopano said the local market would also snap up tickets to Australia. North Texans who want to fly to cities such as Sydney or Melbourne must connect at a West Coast airport, typically Los Angeles. American does not fly to Australia, except through its code-share partners.

Qantas' likely route from D/FW, to Sydney, is still a little ways off, if it comes at all, Lopano said.

The earliest may be the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008.

"What they've said is they are obviously interested in D/FW as a new U.S. point," Lopano said. "What they're doing is evaluating the economics."

The two sides are talking about the size of the D/FW market and the costs associated with flying here. Additionally, D/FW is considering offering incentives to encourage the airline.

On Thursday, Qantas started new U.S. service to San Francisco from Sydney. The airline serves four other North American cities: New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Qantas is talking with Boeing about buying its 777-200LR and Airbus about its A340-500E model, according to The Australian.

Both models fly into D/FW today, so there would be no need for airport upgrades to handle them, Lopano said.

"I think what this reflects is the newfound ability of airlines, based on new technology, to reach points that they could not otherwise reach until now," Lopano said. "If you can plug a D/FW into your top hub in Sydney, that is something you're going to evaluate."

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Knight Ridder content Copyright 2005 provided via The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

News stories provided by third parties are not edited by "Site Publication" staff. For suggestions and comments, please click the Contact link at the bottom of this page.