United Airlines delays restart of Melbourne-San Francisco flights

Executive Traveller exclusive

United Airlines is gearing up for a return for direct flights between Melbourne and the USA, with San Francisco first to appear on the departures board –albeit with a slight delay.

The Star Alliance member’s previous restart schedule had the first Melbourne-San Francisco service taking off on Tuesday May 10, with an initial three flights per week running every Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

However, the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller these flights will be delayed until early June, with the Melbourne-San Francisco now restarting on June 5.

At least there’s still some good news in that the route will feature the modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner – the ticket to a quite, comfortable and jetlag-diminishing ride across the Pacific – fitted with United’s latest Polaris business class seats.

United’s Melbourne-San Francisco flights will feature its modern Polaris business class.

Those seats adopt a 1-2-1 layout so every passenger enjoys direct access to the aisle, along with plenty of personal space and of course a fully flat bed for the overnight portion of the 14-15 hour journey.

United’s Melbourne-San Francisco flights will feature its modern Polaris business class.

Also making their debut on the route: United’s Premium Plus premium economy, set in its own cosy cabin of 21 seats (three rows of 2-3-2) with added legroom and seat recline plus upgraded meals, which all lift the experience a few notches above economy.

United’s Melbourne-San Francisco flights will also see the debut of premium economy.

Putting Melbourne-San Francisco back onto its timetable gives United a slight leadtime advantage over Qantas, which has pushed back the return of its own Sydney-San Francisco service to late July and is yet to share when the Melbourne and Brisbane flights to Fog City will resume.

A Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller the airline was “continually reviewing opportunities as demand comes back”.

United also plans a to restart its flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles and Sydney to Houston later this year, the airline’s senior vice president of international network and alliances, Patrick Quayle, tells Executive Traveller.

Those three cities will unlock the carrier’s ‘triple gateway’ for onwards flights offering one-stop service to other points on the United network – a factor which helped cement United Airlines as Virgin Australia’s new US partner as of April, replacing Delta Air Lines with its sole Sydney-LAX route.

United will also make seats available to be booked using Virgin Australia Velocity points.

“That all gives Virgin customers much more travel via one stop to virtually anywhere in North or South America because of United’s vast network, they’re not having to double- connect or even triple-connect,” Quayle says. “It’s a real win for Virgin.”

United Airlines will not only allow Virgin’s frequent flyers to earn Velocity points and status credits on UA flights but also offer status-based perks such as access to United Club lounges plus priority check-in, security clearance and boarding, along with opening up Velocity point redemptions on its flights.

“Our aim for that would be that it’s effective immediately when the partnership starts in April,” Quayle forecasts.

“There is IT work that has to be done between now and then, our team and the Virgin team are both working on the IT platforms and the ability to talk to each other and do all that, but April is 100% our goal.”

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

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