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Game changer: United launches B787-9 on MEL/LAX

October 29, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59United Airlines yesterday launched non-stop flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles with the first international deployment of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The carrier left no doubt that it expects the radical new airliner to lift its market share on the route.

The MEL/LAX route, slightly longer than SYD/LAX, will be the longest scheduled route in the world for the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which is longer and carries more passengers than the earlier Boeing 787-8 version.

Air New Zealand recently became the first airline to fly the B787-9 commercially, although Japan’s ANA was the first to use it in scheduled service. Those two airlines are Star Alliance members, as is United.

Dave Hilfman, senior vice president Worldwide Sales, United

Dave Hilfman, senior vice president Worldwide Sales, United

United’s senior vice president of sales, Dave Hilfman, who arrived in Melbourne on the maiden westbound flight from Los Angeles yesterday, said the inaugural service on the “game-changing new aircraft” marked another major milestone for United and a key element in the airline’s ongoing commitment to the Australian market.

“We’re excited to offer Melbourne passengers a non-stop service to our Los Angeles hub for the first time, and to deliver a new level of inflight comfort for our passengers with the 787-9 Dreamliner,” Hilfman said.

Among points made by Hilfman:

  • The new service eliminates the need for Melbourne passengers to pass through Sydney, which has in turn allowed United to re-jig its Sydney flight schedules, making them more convenient.
  • United will retain its daily B777 services connecting Sydney to Los Angeles and to San Francisco. The airline has no plans to deploy the B787-9 on Sydney/Los Angeles routes.
  • There are no plans to introduce first class. BusinessFirst, giving “business class at an economy class fare” is “where the market is” currently and is working well.
  • The B787-9 has global satellite wi-fi aboard, so you can check emails and browse the net in flight. Other aircraft will be retro-fitted with the same innovation.
  • As well as having greater fuel efficiency, the B787-9 means less jetlag for passengers on long-haul flights. Being able to pressurise the plane in a manner more similar to ground level helps.
  • Those aboard can’t help noticing how smooth the aircraft is. This is partly because the wings are more flexible, tending to dampen turbulence, and also because of Boeing’s revolutionary Smoother Ride System. Essentially, when  sensors in the aircraft’s nose pick up a sudden gust, they transmit the information instantly to the wings, to adjust virtually immediately. It all helps.
  • United offers 37 non-stop connections to US cities from its LAX hub, so passengers from Melbourne can connect swiftly to those and to Latin America-bound and Canada-bound flights, as well as to many other destinations.

United's first 787-9 Dreamliner rolled out of final assembly at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, facility on April 9, 2014.

Chief marketing officer for Los Angeles Tourism, Don Skeoch, also flew in on the inaugural B787-9 flight. He said Los Angeles continued to grow “as Australia’s most popular tourist destination in the US, thanks to wonderful partners like United Airlines”. The US, as a whole, is the most popular long-haul destination for Australians. The US is Melbourne Airport’s second-largest long-haul market, having grown at 21% over the past three years.

The new Melbourne/Los Angeles flight, UA99, departs Melbourne Airport at 10.15am on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, arriving at Los Angeles International Airport at 6.50am same-day. On Saturday, UA99 departs MEL at 2.15pm and arrives LAX at 10.50am same-day.

The return flight UA98, departs LAX at 10.30pm on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, arriving MEL at 8.15am two days later. On Thursday, UA98 departs LAX at 9.30pm, arriving MEL at 7.15am two days later.

The B787-9 aircraft operating the new Los Angeles-Melbourne service offers 252 seats – 48 in United BusinessFirst and 204 in United Economy, including 63 Economy Plus seats with added legroom and increased personal space.

Written by : Peter Needham

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