United Airlines will begin flying its Boeing 787-9 to Australia in October with the launch of a new direct Dreamliner service between Melbourne and Los Angeles.
The new direct flights, tagged as UA98/99, will run six days a week from October 26 and replace the current daily dogleg route which sees United's Melbourne-LA flights go via Sydney with a one-hour stopover.
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, flight UA99 will depart Melbourne at 11.15am to reach Los Angeles at 6.50am the same day.
On Saturdays, however, UA99 will leave Melbourne at 3.15pm and arrive at Los Angeles at 10.50am.
If you're flying in from stateside UA98 will be wheels-up from LAX at 10.30pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, arriving in Melbourne at 9.15am two days later.
On Thursdays UA98 will shift its schedule one hour earlier, leaving Los Angeles at 9.30pm to reach Melbourne at 8.15am.
Sydney timetable to be tweaked
United will retain its two daily flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, which from March 29 will be upgraded from Boeing 747s to Boeing 777s.
However, the airline says it "will seek to retime" those flights "to allow a greater range of connections beyond the hubs and more convenient arrival times for customers travelling on connecting flights to New York and other East Coast destinations."
While Melbournians headed to Los Angeles will welcome the direct flights, those bound for San Francisco will need to hop a domestic flight to Sydney to meet up with United's daily UA870 service to Fog City.
This will be the international debut for United's Boeing 787-9, a larger and longer-range version of the Boeing 787-8 for which the airline was the US launch customer and currently flies on several domestic US routes as well as international legs to London, Shanghai and Tokyo.
The 14.5 hour trek from Melbourne to Los Angeles will be Australia's longest Boeing 787 route to date and showcase the Dreamliner's traveller-friendly traits such as a lower effective cabin altitude and higher levels of humidity to help defeat jetlag, and oversized windows which let more light into the cabin.
United's Aussie Dreamliner debut will come just one week after Air New Zealand launches its Boeing 787-9 flying between Auckland and Perth from October 15.
Australia is also in the box seat for Scoot's inaugural Boeing 787-9 service which is expected to take wing in December 2014, with Sydney-Singapore tipped as a likely launch route.
United's Boeing 787-9 seating
United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will carry 252 passengers, or 33 more than its 787-8 siblings.
The pointy end will carry 48 business class seats – which United tags as Business First, in a confusing attempt to differentiate it from 'Global First' international first class and the US domestic 'United First' – in a 2-2-2 configuration from rows 1 through 8.
These seats recline into a fully-flat 1.98 metre bed with a 49cm video screen, laptop and USB power.
That's followed by a sizeable Economy Plus cabin of 63 seats stacked in a 3-3-3 configuration.
It's worth noting that United's Economy Plus doesn't equate to conventional Premium Economy seats such as those of Qantas and Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand: it's just an economy seat with "up to 12.7cm" of extra legroom.
The rest of the plane is given over to 141 standard economy seats.
All Economy Plus and Economy seats are fitted with an adjustable headrest and a 22.8cm personal screen, with AC power sockets shared between seats.
Economy Plus isn't flagged at all and the total seat tally comes in at 273 passengers (48 in business and 225 in economy), so we expect United has yet to add some finishing touches to this seatmap.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.