Brisbane Lands ‘Gamechanger’ San Francisco Route

The new United route is the first to be secured through a multimillion-dollar aviation investment fund.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

United Airlines is launching a new route to Australia this fall, with the Queensland capital Brisbane set to become the US carrier’s third destination in the country.

Flights to Brisbane (BNE) will be three times per week from San Francisco (SFO), starting on Oct. 28 and using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff described the route as a “gamechanger” for the tourism industry in the region given the potential to add about 80,000 additional seats annually in and out of Queensland.

The new service is the first to be secured through the A$200 million ($144 million) Attracting Aviation Investment Fund, launched through a partnership between the Queensland Government and Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk predicted that the route would inject A$73 million into the local economy. “Rebuilding Queensland’s tourism industry is a priority for our government,” she said.

“We’re aggressively pursuing new direct flights to our key tourism destinations to drive visitation and support local jobs. That’s what our Attracting Aviation Investment Fund is designed to do.”

Brisbane and San Francisco were previously connected nonstop two years ago. Qantas launched the 11,367-km route in February 2020 but was forced to suspend service the following month due to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and the route is yet to return to the oneworld alliance member’s network.

United, a Star Alliance member, currently offers three routes to Australia, linking both San Francisco and Los Angeles (LAX) with Sydney (SYD) daily, and providing a 3X-weekly San Francisco-Melbourne (MEL) route. Daily service between Houston George Bush (IAH) and Sydney is also slated to return in late-October.

United SVP of international network and alliances Patrick Quayle said the route to Brisbane has been made possible thanks to the carrier’s new partnership with Virgin Australia, which operates a network of some 21 domestic and international routes from Brisbane.

The two airlines announced in December proposals for a new codeshare pact, as well as cooperation on their loyalty programs and airport lounge access. The agreement replaces a Virgin Australia-Delta Air Lines alliance that has existed for more than a decade and included a joint venture (JV) for transpacific flying. The United-Virgin Australia tie-up was granted interim approval by Australia’s competition regulator in May.

“From Brisbane, United customers will be able to easily connect to nearly 20 other cities within Australia thanks to the airline’s new partnership with Virgin Australia,” Quayle said. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve looked for strategic ways to grow our international network, and we’re proud to be the first US airline to put a new dot on our route map across the Pacific.”