All United Australia Flights Moving to Boeing 787-9

Aug 31, 2015

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Per Australian Traveller, United has announced that it will begin using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on all its routes from the US to Australia starting in March 2016. The airline already flies the aircraft on its route from Los Angeles to Melbourne, but uses 777-200s on its two other daily Australian flights, from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney.

The news follows American Airlines and Qantas’s announcement back in June that American will begin flying a new route from Los Angeles to Sydney starting December 17 aboard a 777-300ER, and that Qantas will begin flying Sydney-San Francisco using a 747.

Just Plane Different

United’s move means a couple things for US travelers.

First, there will be fewer seats to Australia. United’s 787-9 has just 252 seats total: 48 in business class, 88 in Economy Plus and 116 in economy. By contrast, its 777-200 has eight seats in Global First, 40 in business class, 113 in Economy Plus and 108 in economy (269 total seats).

United's flagship GlobalFirst suite.
The move means no more Global First seats to Australia.

Second, there will no longer be Global First seats to Australia. The airline has its international first-class seats aboard the 777-200s it flies to Sydney from LA and SFO, but not aboard its 787-9 from LA to Melbourne. Global First is looking more like a decent business-class product than a premier first-class product these days anyway, though, so it’s not a big loss, though award availability is decent with United.

BusinessFirst passengers can expect a lie-flat seat, improved meals and a more respectable selection of alcoholic beverages.
United’s 787-9 features the airline’s latest business-class seats.

Third, it means a better business-class experience. On the 787-9, business-class seats are configured in a 2-2-2 pattern. Each is six feet six inches long and 22 inches wide. That’s compared to the 777-200, which TPG Contributor Sarah Silbert reviewed here. The business-class cabin on that plane squeezes in eight seats across in a 2-4-2 configuration. Each is just six feet four inches long and a mere 20 inches wide.

Book early to avoid ending up in a middle seat in business class!
Book early to avoid ending up in a middle seat in business class!

Economy on the two planes isn’t hugely different – seats on both aircraft are fairly tiny. On the 787-9, Economy Plus seats have 35 inches of legroom, four inches of recline, and are 17.3 inches wide, while in economy, the seats have just 32 inches of pitch and three inches of recline. Both are configured in a 3-3-3 pattern.

On the 777-200, Economy Plus seats have 34 inches of pitch, five inches of recline and are 18 inches wide, while regular economy seats have 31 inches of pitch, four inches of recline and are also 18 inches wide. Seats on this aircraft are also configured in a 3-3-3 pattern.

More to Come

This is just another exciting development in the US-Australia flight market, and there are several more to follow in the coming years. Qantas has eight 787-9s on order, with delivery of the first set to take place late in 2017. It plans to use some of them on routes to the US, possibly including to some new destinations, and the aircraft should feature the airline’s newest business-class seats.

 Qantas will be putting its newest business-class seats aboard its 787-9s, scheduled to enter service late in 2017.
Qantas will be putting its newest business-class seats aboard its 787-9s, scheduled to enter service late in 2017.

Delta has 25 A350-900s on order, with plans to take delivery starting in the second quarter of 2017. So far, the airline has said it intends to use the new planes to replace older 747s on its Asia routes, but here’s hoping they’ll put one or two on routes to Australia as well to replace the 777-200LRs it currently uses.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia is replacing its current (outdated) business class aboard its A330s and 777-300s with a newer version in a reverse-herringbone configuration that looks pretty snazzy as well, and which we should start to see on the airline’s routes to the US in November of this year.

Along with the new competition from American Airlines, Qantas’s new route to San Francisco and Virgin’s new business class, the US-Australia market is really heating up, giving passengers more and better options than ever in the coming months and years.

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