United’s awesome new flight path takes off

United’s awesome new flight path takes off

United Airlines have made another massive foray into the Australian market – and thrown down the gauntlet to Qantas – with the carrier’s inaugural flight from Houston, Texas touching down in Sydney on January 20.

At a gala luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, United’s top brass were in a buoyant mood, with the new route lifting the carrier’s number of daily flights into Australia to four.

The airline already operates daily routes from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco and from Melbourne to Los Angeles.

All four routes are serviced by the ultra long range 787-9 Dreamliner, which has capacity for 252 passengers and offers 48 business class seats.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly at the event, Dave Hilfman, United’s senior vice president worldwide sales, explained that the Dreamliner was the key to making the route a reality.

“The Dreamliner’s long range capacity means a 17 plus hour flight deep into the United States is now feasible. It also has the right capacity for a launch route.

“With 252 seats, as opposed to 400 plus on a 747 or A380, it’s absolutely the right aircraft for this route,” Hilfman said.

© Kurt Ams

In terms of future plans for Australia, United’s vice president international network, Patrick Quayle, said that once they’d demonstrated the Houston to Sydney route was viable in the long term, the carrier would evaluate demand elsewhere in Australia.

The existing three routes between Australia and the US were all meeting expectations, he added.

“The route to Sydney from Houston took roughly two months to put together. And with 32 years flying to Australia and over 40 staff based here, we’ve certainly got the boots on the ground to make it happen,” Quayle said.

Outside Australia, United has seen rapid growth in terms of routes over the last 11 months, Quayle enthused.

“In just under a year we’ve launched 13 international routes, into places our competitors aren’t travelling, like Papeete, Tahiti, Porto in Portugal and Iceland. And there will be more coming in 2018.”

Hilfman also stressed that his message to the Australian travel trade was that they want to be easy to do business with above all.

“We care about travel agents and their clients. We’re only successful as a business if they’re successful. And with 17 Australia-based staff working in sales, I think that shows our commitment to this market.”

© Kurt Ams© Kurt Ams

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