Qantas Airways, Australia's largest carrier, will fly seven Asian routes earlier in the day as a partnership with Emirates gives it more scope to run flights at times that appeal to business-class passengers.
The carrier would also look at whether to run direct flights from Australia to Beijing, Delhi and Mumbai from 2016, when it could exercise options to buy as many as 50 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, it said in a statement.
More 787 flights might be added to Seoul and Tokyo, Qantas said, where four of five direct routes were operated by its budget arm Jetstar and code-share partners.
Qantas international chief Simon Hickey wants to reschedule flight times to deliver better service to Asian destinations and win major corporate customers. The airline had spent A$9 million (HK$72.63 million) upgrading lounges in Hong Kong and Singapore and was considering refurbishing its Airbus A330 aircraft to include lie-flat beds in business class, it said.
"There's still some work to be done on this," said Russell Shaw, an analyst at Macquarie in Sydney. "I'd think this will be the first announcement of several as they ramp up these connections."
Flights into Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok will be brought forward by as much as about four hours using capacity freed up by the agreement with Emirates.
Service to Frankfurt would stop operating from April 15, six months earlier than originally announced, Qantas said.
"The joint Qantas-Emirates network into Asia gives our customers a fresh set of options," Hickey said. "Through a combination of Qantas, Jetstar and our partners, we aim to provide the best travel options between Australia and Asia."
The carrier is partnering with Emirates to end as much as A$450 million of annual losses on international routes. The so-called kangaroo route to Europe, which had previously transferred through Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok, will be moved to the Gulf carrier's Dubai hub and a 17-year alliance with British Airways on the long-haul routes will be dropped as a result.
Qantas cancelled an order in August for 35 787-9 Dreamliner models worth about US$8.5 billion at list prices. It also cancelled one of the 15 shorter 787-8 models that Jetstar is due to start receiving in the second half of this year.
Qantas' announcement that it was evaluating whether to extend routes to new destinations using the 787-9 did not mean the carrier was any more likely to acquire the aircraft, Shaw said.
"They just say they're examining it," he said. "I'd hope they'd be doing that as part of their ordinary course of business."
Qantas would also look at whether it could expand its Asian network through existing partners including Japan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Jet Airways India, Cathay Pacific Airways and Malaysian Airline System, the company said.