Qantas just announced officially that they are expected to launch frequencies to Chicago O'hare, another US gateway city after Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. While it is currently still subject to DOT approval, the service is expected to begin in 2020.
The flight would be operated by a 787-9 featuring 3 classes of service: Business, Premium Economy, and Economy.
Qantas is also operating 787s to other all other US cities as well. With the addition of several more to the fleet over the course of next few years, Qantas's expansion is heavily based on the 787 aircraft.
On an interesting note, Qantas's new Chicago service will be launched out of Brisbane, instead of Sydney. It is believed that this is due to existing range limitation. The Brisbane - Chicago route would cover a distance of 8901 miles, with over 18 hours of flight time, while Sydney would be an additional 300, at 9230 miles. With the unpredictable headwind patterns over the pacific, 787-9s might face weight challenges out of Sydney.
As for the expected configuration, Qantas officials said that they are considering reconfiguring 787s with space for passengers to stretch out on the ultra long haul flights like this one. While it is certainly not optimal to be stuck in economy for 18+ hours (although the seat pitch on Qantas 789 is a generous 34'), I appreciate that Qantas is trying to come up with features that would make the journey at least slightly more bearable.
Points-wise, Qantas is historically TERRIBLE with releasing award seats on long haul routes. Similarly, I would expect very few spaces available when the flight is loaded in schedule in the future. However, your best bet is still checking availability 360 days out when schedule opens for redemption. Fortunately, you can easily search up availability on Qantas using British Airways' site.
The best redemption (if you can find space!) rate can be found using Alaska Mileage Plan miles, which only requires 55K miles one way in Business Class between US and Australia/New Zealand. You can add one FREE STOPOVER on the journey, which is quite a sweet spot.
You can also use American Airlines miles, which charges 80K miles one way in Business Class from US to Australia. However, it allows you to add domestic segments on American Airlines for free without additional mileage requirements, which is quite useful for those who need to reposition to get to gateway cities that Qantas flies to.
What do you think of Qantas's new Chicago flight?