United to Fly All Australia Routes with 787-9 Dreamliner, Trick to Get Business Class Award


United is putting a 787-9 Dreamliner on its all of its routes to Australia by March 26, 2016. United currently flies the 787-9 on its Los Angeles to Melbourne route and 777s on its San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney routes.

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There is great economy award space on the Sydney routes after the operating aircraft switches to a Dreamliner, but very little Business Class space. There is, however, a trick to increase your chances of getting Business Class award space on the Dreamliner to Australia.

United 787-9 Dreamliner

The United 787-9 Dreamliner has 48 beds in Business class in a 2-2-2 configuration. In 2-2-2 configurations, I always choose a middle seat, since both have direct aisle access. If you choose a seat on either side of the plane, you’ll either need to climb over your seatmate or be climbed over during the flight.

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Each seat converts to a fully flat bed with 6’6″ of sleeping space.

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New Routes

Los Angeles to Sydney switches to a Dreamliner on March 26, 2016.

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San Francisco to Sydney switches to a Dreamliner on March 25, 2016.

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Both flights are 15 hour redeyes. Both returns are 14 hour redeyes that take off around midday.

Award Space Picture

Los Angeles to Sydney

Award space is fantastic in economy, and five days in the Spring (their Winter) have Business Class award space.

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Sydney to Los Angeles

Award space is fantastic in economy and three days have Business Class award space.

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San Francisco to Sydney

Economy award space is slightly worse, and there is no Business Class award space.

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Sydney to San Francisco

Just like the San Fran to Sydney flight, very good economy award space, no Business Class space.

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Four People

All the above calendars were for one person. The award space hardly changes if you change the search to four people.

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How to Fly Business Class on the Dreamliner

So little Saver award space is released on the Dreamliner in Business Class that if you really want to fly it, I’d recommend using United Plan B.

The basics of Plan B are that:

  1. You book United-operated flights with United miles. In this case, you can book from your home airport to Australia in economy for 40,000 United miles one way or 80,000 United miles roundtrip. I repeat: Plan B only works when redeeming United miles for United-operated flights.
  2. You call United and ask to be waitlisted for a higher cabin on the flights you booked.
  3. The agent takes extra miles from your account as if you were confirmed in the higher cabin. In this case, that would be an extra 30,000 miles each way, since United Business Class to Australia is 70,000 miles.
  4. You are given top priority on the waitlist as if you were displaced Business Class passenger. That means you have higher priority than attempted upgraders.
  5. Since United rarely (ever?) sells all 48 beds on its Dreamliner to Australia, and you are at the top of the upgrade list, you are very likely to fly Business Class.
  6. If you don’t fly Business Class, you are refunded the extra miles (30,000 each way in this case) that you paid at the time of being waitlisted.

This is an ideal route for a Plan B award because economy award space is so wide open, the Business Class product is good quality and fairly priced, and the Business Class cabin is so large that an upgrade seems very likely.

Here are the first hand experiences of other people who have booked Plan B awards.

How to Get United Miles

The United personal, business, and Club cards plus the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus all earn United miles.

Bottom Line

United is moving its newest plane the 787-9 Dreamliner to all of its Australia routes by the end of winter. Economy award space is fantastic for 4+ people, but Business Class space is rarely available for even a single person.

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Use United Plan B awards to turn an economy award magically into a flat bed.


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  1. What happens with the other legs of the flight with Plan B? ex. If flying Atlanta-Los Angeles-Sydney will ATL-LAX be in business or economy? Also if you’re in business class for the US portion will you pay business for the whole trip with Plan B?

    • If you book ATL-LAX-SYD you will be upgrade priority 1 on both segments. If the domestic flight clears into First Class and the international flight doesn’t clear into Business Class, you can get a full refund of the extra miles you paid for Business Class. So in this case, you would get a 30k refund on the 70k you paid.

  2. When do the upgrades usually clear? If you do not want to fly in economy if not upgraded what is the escape plan if not upgraded?

    • At check in or boarding. There is not really an “escape plan.” You fly economy if Plan B doesn’t work.

  3. Scott – I think you missed a very key part of getting Plan B to work. You don’t “You call United and ask to be waitlisted for a higher cabin on the flights you booked.”. You need to specifically ask to wait listed and insist that you pay the miles for Biz even thought you only have a eco ticket. Otherwise you will just be waitlisted like everyone else on the waitlist.

    • Yes, you’re right. I don’t think I missed that, but if that was unclear to anyone, make sure the agent is taking the extra miles from your account and giving you PR-1 waitlist status.

  4. […] Until that happens though, the way to fly Business Class on direct flights to New Zealand will be to book the little-known United Plan B awards that allow you to book economy awards, pay the Business Class miles price, get first priority on the waitlist as a “displaced Business Class passenger,” and even get your extra miles refunded in the very unlikely event of not upgrading. More on United Plan B awards here. […]

  5. Are you above ALL others on the waitlist? for example are you above the people who pay for an economy fair and then use miles/co-pay to be on the waitlist?

    • You are above them. You are a displaced Business Class passenger. As if you have booked Business Class but they had to downgrade you for an equipment swap or something. I believe that is the absolute highest one can be.

  6. In regards to an escape plan:

    My travel plans are extremely flexible… If I purchase two plan B tickets for a certain date, and they still don’t have business class seats for me leading up to departure, do you know if I would have any sort of option to gamble and wait 1 or 2 more days to see if I can get lucky and get two business class seats?

    Do you have any rough guesses on timeframes when an upgrade would be most likely to occur? 7 days prior, 48 hours, etc…

    Thanks, Zack

    • I think you’d have to pay a change fee to move the flight back. Either Business Class award space will open some time between 3 weeks and 24 hours out or you would be upgraded at the gate.

  7. This is amazing information! Thank you so much! Makes my life so much easier for an award booking.

    Trying to fly SEA–YVR/SFO/LAX–SYD/AKL/BNE or vice versa home. Would also consider routing through Houston if needed. I think my first preference would be to book AC for their 787 product, but I really like the flexibility that United Plan B gives me.

    How would the upgrade work for all segments? Would all of them have to clear to get the UG? Or is it segment by segment?

    This would still be the normal price for the award booking? (Assuming no more devaluations)

    Thanks again!


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