Qantas resumed flights from Sydney to San Francisco in December.
San Francisco has leapt past New York as the most popular US destination for Australian business travellers as a result of the tech boom and Qantas’ resumption of non-stop flights from Sydney.
Data from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) bookings from March 2015 to April 2016 also shows a decline in Australian business travel to China amid tough times in the resources sector.
GBT vice president and general manager Australia Jo Sully said travel to New York had not fallen, but there had been an increase in bookings for San Francisco.
“A lot of the tech-based companies are headquartered over there,” she said. “That is obviously contributing to the increase in that sector. But also the direct flight Qantas has now really helps with the connectivity and it has helped our customers go there.”
United Airlines had offered flights from Sydney to San Francisco before Qantas rejoined the route in December, but Australian corporate customers are more likely to have contracts with the national carrier. A trip to San Francisco on Qantas previously involved a stop in Los Angeles.
“San Francisco has been very successful so far,” Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said last week. “We have got the right business model and cost base.”
The top three international destinations for Australian business travellers during the period studied were Singapore, Auckland and Hong Kong. Bangkok reached the fourth position, having dropped out of the top 10 the prior year during a period of political instability.
Shanghai fell from sixth to 10th in the latest rankings, while Beijing dropped off the top 10 entirely.
“It is pretty much in line with the decline in the resource and energy sector that we are seeing.” Ms Sully said. “That is really driving that decline and downturn. [China] is still a growing economy.”
CAPA Centre for Aviation said the financial prospects for the routes were unclear.
“The market between Australia and China can be financially challenging most of the year,” CAPA said. “It is mostly low yielding inbound visitors in economy class. Heavy discounting occurs in premium cabins and even then they rarely fly full.”
Qantas offers one daily flight from Sydney to Shanghai, its only service to mainland China.