The competitive Australia-United States market could see a seventh entrant following Strategic Airlines' request to commence services between the two countries this September.

At less than two years old, Australia's youngest international airline has applied to the country's International Air Services Commission (IASC) for a 10 year allocation of unlimited capacity to the US.

Although the two countries signed an Open Skies agreement in 2008, IASC director Michael Bird says any carrier wishing to operate to the US requires an allocation of capacity, for which there is an unlimited supply. To receive approval, Strategic will need to meet basic criteria on its general operations and ownership.

"It's a competitive market but we believe there is always opportunity for specific origin and destination traffic. There are definitely lots of options for us," Strategic head of commercial Damien Vasta says.

He declines to specify which American port or ports it intends to serve except that the selection will largely follow the carrier's existing network strategy of serving new leisure routes or leisure routes with little competition.

Vasta says the carrier "will also look at where leisure and corporate [markets] can crossover".

The carrier intends to use an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Although the aircraft's range would effectively limit Strategic to flights to Hawaii or very load-restricted flights to the west coast of the United States, Vasta says the carrier is eyeing farther destinations, possibly to be served by a partner airline.

"Our preference is always to provide point-to-point services but we are talking to partners about offering through destinations," Vasta says. "We'll either consider beyond network operations ourselves or work with partners to offer those beyond services through some type of interline arrangement."

The carrier expects to make further announcements in the coming weeks.

Strategic's current single A330-200 aircraft operates in a 2-class configuration seating 273 passengers. Strategic plans to acquire another A330-200 aircraft this year and a third next year.

Delta Air Lines, Qantas Airways, United Airlines, and V Australia fly from Australia to California. Next month Qantas will launch flights to Dallas. Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, and Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar fly to Honolulu in Hawaii. The Australia-California market has only recently stabilised following excess capacity created by Delta and V Australia's 2009 entrance on the route.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news