United Airlines has announced that it will introduce non-stop flights between its hub at Los Angeles International Airport and Melbourne, Australia, effective October 26, 2014 using its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. United is the North American launch customer for the 787-9, and this route, subject to government approval, will be its first international deployment of the aircraft type.
"We are excited about using the newest version of the Dreamliner, the 787-9, to provide nonstop trans-Pacific service to Melbourne," said Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer, United Airlines. "Our customers on these new flights will enjoy a more convenient itinerary, as well as improved inflight comfort and amenities."
The new flight will operate on a six times weekly basis and depart Los Angeles in the late evening, arriving in Melbourne during the morning, two days later due to the time difference. The flight time will be approximately 15 hours, 45 minutes westbound, and 14 hours, 35 minutes eastbound.
Elsewhere in Australia, United is seeking to make changes to its Sydney schedule. The new flight will see the end of United's continuation service between Sydney and Melbourne and a planned retimed departure of its daily rotations from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney in order to allow a greater range of connections beyond the hubs and to provide more convenient arrival times for customers on connecting flights from Sydney to New York and other East Coast destinations.
United is already a customer for the smaller 787-8 and now has nine Dreamliners in its fleet. The airline has a further 56 Dreamliners on order and expects to take delivery of five more from Boeing, including its first two 787-9s, by the end of 2014. It will configure its 787-9s a total of 252 seats – 48 in United BusinessFirst and 204 in United Economy, including 63 Economy Plus seats with added legroom and increased personal space.
The US major started services to Australia in 1979 and today operates more flights to more destinations in Australia than any other US carrier, through it's daily flights from its San Francisco and Los Angeles hubs to Sydney and Melbourne and twice-weekly service to Cairns from Guam. The airline will begin introducing 777-200 aircraft to replace 747-400s on its trans-Pacific services to Australia at the end of March 2014.
An estimated 895,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Los Angeles and destinations across Australia in 2013 with the largest flows to/from Sydney (around 428,000 passengers) and Melbourne (approximately 216,000 passengers). In the analysis below we look at the largest carriers in the US - Australia market over the past five years.
Total O&D demand between the two countries has risen 31.0 per cent during that period, with growth of 6.4 per cent being recorded between 2012 and 2013. Qantas has seen its own share of the traffic decline 7.0 percentage points across the five years due to growth of its local rival Virgin Australia and major network expansion in this market by Hawaiian Airlines, but it remains by far the largest airline between the two countries by O&D traffic demand.