United switches San Francisco-Auckland to seasonal schedule

United flight UA971 arrives at Auckland. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)

United is switching its San Francisco-Auckland flights from a year-round to seasonal service from April 2017.

The schedule change was outlined in an Air New Zealand note to travel agents.

“Air New Zealand wishes to advise our alliance partner United Airlines will adjust its schedule for services between San Francisco and Auckland in order to better match capacity on the route with seasonal demand,” Air New Zealand said in a note to travel agents on January 6.

Under the new schedule, United will stop flying between San Francisco and Auckland between April 16 2017 and October 28 2017, leaving Air New Zealand as the only operator on the route.

The US carrier will resume daily services to Auckland from San Francisco from November 2017, and increase its schedule to 10 times weekly over the peak summer holiday period between December 2017 and March 2018.

United returned to Auckland in July 2016, ending a 13-year absence in New Zealand.

It is flying the route in partnership with Air New Zealand, as the two Star Alliance members have a revenue-sharing joint-venture on New Zealand-US routes that commenced with United’s return to New Zealand.

The JV deepened an existing partnership that has been in place since 2001, with the pair codesharing on each other’s networks and cooperating on frequent flyer benefits and distribution.

The trans-Pacific market has experienced a big lift in capacity in the past year or so, with Qantas resuming Sydney-San Francisco in December 2015, American entering Sydney-Los Angeles (December 2015) and Auckland-Los Angeles (June 2016), Air Canada commencing Brisbane-Vancouver (June 2016) and Air New Zealand starting Auckland-Houston services in December 2015.

And there is more to come in 2017, with Virgin Australia returning to the Melbourne-Los Angeles route from April 2017 after dropping the nonstop service in 2014.

Meanwhile Qantas said in December 2016 Melbourne-Los Angeles would be the airline’s first international route with the 787-9. The Dreamliner will fly six times a week between Melbourne and Los Angeles from December 2017, which would lift the number of Qantas services on the route to 13 flights a week, compared with nine currently.


Australian Aviation

United Boeing 777-300ER to fly San Francisco-Hong Kong from March

United Airlines will begin flights of its new Boeing 777-300ER – with the Polaris business class seats – between San Francisco and Hong Kong from March 25, 2017, replacing an ageing Boeing 747 on the route.

It’s the first international route for the factory-fresh birds, and will follow almost three months of domestic US runs between Newark and San Francisco from February 16 to May 4.

United has 14 Boeing 777-300ERs on order and expects them all to be flying before the end of 2017 as the Star Alliance member moves to simultaneously roll out its Polaris product and wind back its Boeing 747 jumbo jet fleet.

Fully-flat beds, large video screens, direct aisle access from every seat, upmarket meals and bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue are all part of the Polaris package, with 60 business class seats in the Boeing 777-300ER (along with 102 seats in Economy Plus and 204 in economy).

San Francisco and Hong Kong are both in line to see new Polaris business class lounges in 2017, with San Fran sporting a flagship  split-level design which will take over the space currently used by the Singapore Airlines and EVA Air lounges.

Those lounges will be restricted to business class travellers (and first class, at least until United rips out all first class seats from its aircraft), with all Mileage Plus card-holders and Star Alliance Gold equivalents directed to the less salubrious United Club lounges.


Australian Business Traveller

Air New Zealand and United deepen partnership



Air New Zealand and United plan to expand their partnership to include revenue sharing on New Zealand-US routes.

The move to deepen cooperation comes as United counts down to its return to NZ for the first time since 2003, with nonstop San Francisco-Auckland flights with Boeing 787s due to begin in July.

United vice chairman and chief revenue officer Jim Compton said: “This joint venture will allow us to work more closely with Air New Zealand to optimise our trans-Pacific schedules and offer more convenient flight choices to our customers in both the US and New Zealand.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with Air New Zealand, an industry innovator and leader, to further grow our business in ways that will benefit our mutual customers.”

The two Star Alliance members have been partners since 2001, with extensive codesharing on each other’s networks, as well as cooperation on frequent flyer benefits and distribution. In 2015, the pair signed a Statement of Intent to “deepen and further define” their alliance.

Asked whether the revenue sharing arrangement would require any government approvals from either the US or NZ, an Air NZ spokesperson told Australian Aviation: “Air New Zealand and United Airlines have an existing regulatory approval to cooperate on routes between New Zealand and the USA.”

The revenue sharing agreement is due to kick off when United commences San Francisco-Auckland three times a week from July 1 with 787-8s. United plans to upgauge to the larger 787-9 and move to a daily schedule from November.

The Air NZ spokesperson said United was awaiting its licence from the NZ government to operate between Auckland and San Francisco.

Currently, Air NZ serves five points in North America – Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver – from its Auckland hub. Meanwhile, United flies from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon said working more closely with United would support NZ tourism.

“The United States is New Zealand’s third largest tourism source market, contributing almost a billion dollars to our economy in the past financial year,” Luxon said in a statement.

“We know this is just the tip of the iceberg though, with around 30 million Americans actively considering New Zealand as a holiday destination.

“To have a strong home market carrier like United Airlines working with us to grow this market through its extensive sales and distribution channels in the US will provide a significant boost to inbound tourism.”

Air NZ has revenue sharing arrangements with Virgin Australia, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Air China.


Australian Aviation

United upbeat on Australian routes

N38950 UAL B789 34 YMML AA-3483 Bernie Proctor


United’s improved on-board offering and the use of Boeing 787-9s on all Australian and New Zealand services will ensure the airline remains competitive amid new carriers and new services in the market, a senior executive from the airline says.

The Australia-US market is currently in a period of expansion, with American Airlines commencing its own flights from Sydney to Los Angeles in December, while its alliance partner Qantas has returned to the Sydney-San Francisco route.

And there is also çapacity growth coming across the Tasman, with American to start Auckland-Los Angeles from June and United to begin Auckland-San Francisco flights the following month in cooperation with partner Air New Zealand, which itself launched flights to Houston in December.

United managing director for Japan and Pacific sales Alison Espley describes the current conditions as a challenging revenue environment.

However, Espley believes United’s revamped service on Australian routes – recent changes have included bringing back the two checked baggage allowance, as well as complimentary beer and wine, in economy – have ensured the airline is able to continue to meet the needs of the travelling public.

Schedules have also been tweaked to allow for an earlier arrival into the United States, ensuring shorter connecting times for passengers travelling to points such as New York, Chicago, Miami or Las Vegas.

“We are responding to what customers have told us they wanted,” the Tokyo-based Espley told Australian Aviation in an interview during a recent visit to Australia to celebrate the airline’s 30th anniversary in this country.

The switch of the Boeing 777-200ER to the 787-9 on its Sydney-San Francisco and Sydney-Los Angeles services is due to take place on March 27 and 28.

Although the aircraft change means United will no longer offer first class to Australia, it does represent an improvement in the business cabin with a 2-2-2 configuration in 787-9 business cabin compared with a 2-4-2 layout on the 777-200ER featuring a mixture of forward-facing and rear-facing seats.

United already flies the 787 on its Melbourne-Los Angeles nonstop flights that kicked off October 2014.

“The Dreamliner flights to Melbourne have been very encouraging and we are confident the customer satisfaction will be similar when they start flying to Sydney,” Espley said.

In terms of the impact on its Sydney-San Francisco flights following the return of Qantas on the route at Christmas, Espley said United was holding its own in the face of the renewed competition.

The United executive said the strength of the airline’s San Francisco hub with more than 100 connections, coupled with the millions of United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer members and its profile in Australia built up in the 30 years since it first commenced flights to Australia, leaves the airline in a good position to compete.

“We are very pleased with the performance of the San Francisco route,” Espley said. “It is still meeting expectations, as are all our Australian routes.”


Australian Aviation

United to return to New Zealand from July 2016

A supplied image of a United Boeing 787-8. (United)

United is returning to New Zealand for the first time in 13 years with a new San Francisco-Auckland service due to start on July 3 2016.

The flights will initially operate three times a week with Boeing 787-8s before increasing to daily from October 30 2016 with the larger 787-9 Dreamliner.

United said its flights would be operated in coordination with fellow Star Alliance member Air New Zealand, which currently flies daily between San Francisco and Auckland.

The pair already work together and codeshare on each other’s services for New Zealand-US travel as part of a long-standing partnership and earlier in 2015 signed a Statement of Intent to “deepen and further define” their alliance.

“We’re very excited about adding Auckland to our industry-leading global route network and offering our New Zealand customers nonstop service to the US,” United vice chairman and chief revenue officer Jim Compton said in a statement on Friday.

“We have a long history of working together with our partners at Air New Zealand to provide customers with expansive travel options across and between the United States, New Zealand, and beyond. With the launch of United’s new San Francisco service and Air New Zealand’s new Houston service, we are expanding our partnership, and bringing the benefit of even more service options to the traveling public.”

Currently, Air NZ is the only airline offering nonstop flights between NZ and the US mainland, with daily service to San Francisco, 18 flights a week to Los Angeles and four flights a week to Vancouver from its Auckland hub, with five times weekly flights to Houston due to begin in December. The NZ flag carrier also competes with Hawaiian Airlines on the Auckland-Honolulu route.

Meanwhile, United flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and daily from Melbourne to Los Angeles.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon welcomed United’s return to Auckland as part of an expanded partnership between the two carriers.

“To have a partner carrier with a network like United Airlines promoting destination New Zealand and attracting visitors through its immense sales and distribution channels will provide a significant boost to inbound tourism,” Luxon said in a statement.

“We look forward to working together with United to continue to build the links between New Zealand and the US.”

United’s entry comes as Qantas and alliance partner American forge a new revenue-sharing alliance on trans-Pacific routes that market watchers believe is likely to lead to American operating nonstop flights from the US to NZ.

The third significant player on trans-Pacific routes is the combined Virgin Australia-Delta Air Lines alliance, which operates twice daily from Sydney and daily from Brisbane to Los Angeles.

United’s last flight to New Zealand was on March 29 2003.

United Airlines last flight to Auckland. (Mike Millet)

United's final flight to New Zealand. (Mile Millett)

Australian Aviation