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United’s first flight on the brand new 787-9 Dreamliner is set for October 26, 2014 between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

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Currently United serves Melbourne as a tag flight from Sydney after a brief layover.

Official word of the route is expected later today, but we don’t need the announcement because we can see the flights loaded onto the calendar at united.com and up for sale right now.

What’s the award space picture? What are the flight times? What is the difference between the 787-8 and 787-9? How is United’s premium product to Australia?

Los Angeles to Melbourne

Flights begin on the 787-9 from Los Angeles to Melbourne on October 26, 2014. Award space is not available on the maiden flight at the Saver or Standard level.

Standard (double price) award space is available many of the days I searched, but no Saver award space has been released on the route in economy or business in either direction yet.

For many months after United started flying the 787-8, business class space was nearly impossible to find. It’s still rare, but not nearly as protected. Hopefully the “protection” of the 787-9 award space is short-lived also, and we all have a chance to book Saver award space on the route.

Even after United’s devaluation, its prices to Australia are a reasonable 40k miles each way in economy and 70k in business on its own flights.

United’s flight to Melbourne will be a redeye that lands two days after takeoff and clocks in at 15hr45min.

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The return flight is one of my least favorite flight times, an afternoon-departure redeye, though it is only 14hr35min.

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United’s direct flight to Melbourne will be the third one from Los Angeles, with Virgin Australia and Qantas already competing on the route.

United to Australia

United currently flies 747-400s from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Sydney. The flight from Los Angeles continues to Melbourne after stopping in Sydney.

I took the New Year’s Eve flight from Los Angeles to Sydney in Global First Class on a United 747, a flight which I reviewed here.

Those flights change to being operated by the smaller 777-200 next month.

Los Angeles to Sydney and San Francisco to Sydney will continue to operate even after the new Dreamliner route begins, though the Sydney to Melbourne tag route will be dropped.

Starting October 26, 2014, United will have three routes to Australia:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney on a three-cabin 777-200
  • San Francisco to Sydney on a three-cabin 777-200
  • Los Angeles to Melbourne on a two-cabin 787-9

787-8 vs. 787-9

According to Wikipedia, the 787-9 has the same wingspan as the 787-8 but is 20 feet longer.

On united.com, if you click View Seats on the 787-9, you get an image that isn’t stylized like most of their seat maps, but it appears to show 48 BusinessFirst seats in eight rows, which is 12 more beds than the United 787-8.

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United.com’s 787-9 seat map is missing a nose, economy plus, and the “flat bed” icons.
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787-8 Seat Map from United.com

Recap

The news of United’s first 787-9 route is very exciting, and I am glad that it restores some capacity to Australia that disappears next month when United’s other Australia routes change from 747-operated to 777-operated.

Right now, there is no Saver award space from Los Angeles to Melbourne or Melbourne to Los Angeles on the 787-9, but I expect that to change. When it does, United’s award prices of 40k/70k each way in economy/business are very reasonable.

Hat Tip: Australian Business Traveler

 

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