United Airlines will begin flying between Brisbane and San Francisco from October 2022, adding a new Australian port to the network of the freshly-minted Virgin Australia partner.
The Star Alliance member's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, equipped with lie-flat Polaris business class suites as well as comfortable Premium Plus premium economy seats, will run three times a week as of October 28.
According to Brisbane Airport, the San Francisco to Brisbane flights will run on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; Brisbane to San Francisco flights are slated for Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
“As Brisbane Airport welcomes more than 75% of all international arrivals into Queensland, securing United is good news for tourism and hospitality businesses from Coolangatta to the Cape,” said Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff, describing the deal as “a gamechanger for the tourism industry.”
“These new services bring welcome news for jobs and the economy, and offer Queenslanders a direct connection to Silicon Valley and beyond.”
Brisbane landed the new United service through a $200 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund, set up in partnership between the Queensland Government and Brisbane Airport Corporation.
Speaking with Executive Traveller earlier this year, United’s senior vice president of international network and alliances, Patrick Quayle, said the airline was “always looking at new opportunities… having Virgin as a partner is going to be helpful and that will create more opportunities for more service.”
Virgin Australia previously flew between Brisbane and Los Angeles, but new owners Bain Capital ditched the long-range Boeing 777 jets to sharpen Virgin’s focus on the domestic market.
While having United recreate this route has been subject to equal parts speculation and hope, San Francisco is also a major hub for United Airlines, with direct connectivity to 80 North American cities.
“From Australia to anywhere in North America, Los Angeles is the largest destination, the largest terminating point in the United States,” Quayle tells Executive Traveller. “In San Francisco, the local market is a lot smaller, but the size of the hub is a lot larger.”
United will be going head-to-head with Qantas, although the Flying Kangaroo has yet to restart its suspended Brisbane-San Francisco service.
Travellers from Brisbane in United business class or holding suitable frequent flyer status with United or its Star Alliance partner airlines will begin their journey at either the Air New Zealand or Singapore Airlines lounges.
However, under the current terms of the Virgin Australia / United Airlines alliance, Virgin’s Velocity Gold and Platinum members have access only to United’s own lounges, not those of partners – which means they are likely to be accommodated at the independent My Lounge – which was of course a Virgin lounge when it debuted in October 2019.
On the return leg from San Francisco, business class passengers will enjoy a pre-flight respite at United’s well-appointed Polaris Lounge, with the United Club accommodating all other lounge-worthy travellers.
More to follow...