SYDNEY – US carrier Delta Air Lines began nonstop Sydney to Los Angeles flights Friday, becoming only the fourth carrier to ply the lucrative route.

Delta Flight 16 left Sydney International Airport at 9:25 a.m. (2325 GMT), kicking off a daily service in either direction.

“Australia is a very important market for Delta as we expand our global network,” said the firm’s Australian general manager, Steven Crowdey.

The launch cuts in on a flight path previously only served by Australian flag- carrier Qantas Airways Ltd., Virgin’s V Australia and the United States’ United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp.

Qantas reportedly takes up to 20% of its earnings from the route, to which Singapore Airlines Ltd. has sought access for years.

Separately, Singapore’s Tiger Airways on Friday began budget flights on the busy Sydney to Melbourne route.