Qantas has welcomed an interim decision by the competition watchdog for the carrier to expand its partnership with American Airlines on services between Australia and the US.
The alliance received the interim tick of approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Thursday, but is still subject to final approval from the regulator.
The ACCC said the expansion was likely to lead to extra capacity and competition on the Sydney-Los Angeles route and flights between Sydney and San Francisco.
Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said the deal was good for passengers, who would now be able to fly direct to San Francisco.
“Our corporate customers in particular have told us they look forward to saving about four hours each way by not having to connect through Los Angeles,” Mr Evans said.
“They are thrilled we are returning to San Francisco, which is the most popular onward destination for Qantas customers travelling to the US.”
He said direct flights to San Francisco would start on December 18 with its Boeing 747-400.
Qantas and American Airlines formed a five-year alliance in 2011, and have recently sought to expand the arrangement.
In June, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the new Pacific routes operating from December were part of a plan by the airlines to grow the Pacific market by around nine per cent.
The new direct flight between Sydney and San Francisco on a Qantas Boeing 747 will take around 14 hours.
The ACCC says it will now prepare a draft determination on the expanded co-operation agreement.