United Airlines to resume Melbourne - San Francisco flights next month

The newly-minted Virgin Australia partner has set a date for the resumption of direct flights to Melbourne.

By David Flynn, May 3 2022
United Airlines to resume Melbourne - San Francisco flights next month

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 from 5 June - a slight delay from the originally pencilled date of May 10.

While the Star Alliance carrier's return to Melbourne will see the maiden service fly on a Sunday, the regular schedule going forward will see the 14.5-hour journey operate to Fog City on the more regular schedule of three times weekly on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

Flight UA61 will lift off from Tullamarine Airport at 9:30am, navigating across the Pacific to touch down just after 7am on the same day. The return journey takes wing at 10:45pm, descending into the Victorian capital at 7:30am two days later.

The newly restored link between Melbourne and San Francisco builds on the existing daily flights from Sydney which resumed in February.

The route will feature the modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner – the ticket to a quiet, 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.
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.
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.
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 will resume.

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

United also plans 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, told 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.
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.

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

26 May 2011

Total posts 20

I can't believe QF don't believe the SFO demand is there to only start SYD in late July and not have any plans to resume MEL.  The market has been handed to UA on a platter. 

14 Feb 2015

Total posts 15

Have you seen the loads over the pacific? They are pretty abysmal and likely will be for most of the year. I’m amazed QF is even operating at the level they are, pretty sure they are still losing a fortune still if the pax numbers on my flights are any indicator. There just aren’t enough people ready to travel. 

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 121

That may be why QF is operating A330s on a lot of the transpacific flights at the moment (which I've rarely seen before). With a light load it can do the distance. But at maximum payload it does not have the range. To explain, if the aircraft is at full payload and fuel, it is around 50 000kg overweight. So if it is carrying full fuel (which it would have to be, or close to full, to fly transpacific plus reserves), then the payload must be around 50 000kg less than full capacity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Sep 2013

Total posts 15

United gained a lot of credibility with SF-based flyers when they continued direct flights to Australia throughout the entire pandemic. QF chose to abandon Australians living overseas and they'll pay the price for a long time as a result.

(Demand is still variable though – my recent weekday UA SFO-SYD flight was a little under 50% load in every class.)

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Just beware, like in the pic, you can only sleep on your side as these Polaris seats are narrow (but not as narrow on 787-10)

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Good t ohear UA   are doing Polaris - we got the 789 past few years but the old Continental 2-2-2 Business so the only decent seats WITH overhead stowage, direct aisle access and large footwell was row 6 centre seats.  I guess UA are holding off to see what happens with BA2 and the new BA1 subvariant found in China  past few days .... Lets hope for a fantastic tieup wit hVirgin Australia, and recognition of Premier 1K status with VA

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

I assume the delay is more to do with fleet availability.  UA currently has a reduced 772 fleet due to modifications required to their P&W engines so the long-haul fleet is probably still a bit stretched.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 43

For the last 2 years UA have been a lifeline for us Aussies living in the Bay Area. Now they have the year-round 777-300 from SYD-SFO it would make it difficult for me to switch back to QF. 

30 May 2014

Total posts 6

United has a huge mega hub in San Francisco to feed its Australian flights as well as cater to large corporate market.

Qantas does not have the feed in San Francisco and is mainly reliant on corporate/premium leisure point to point traffic.

Both carriers are also affected by aircraft availability. United with 777 issues and Qantas with still mainly stored A380's.


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