United Airlines to launch Sydney-Houston flights in January 2018

By David Flynn, September 8 2017

United Airlines will begin direct flights between Sydney and Houston from January 20 2018, with the new route going head to head against Qantas' daily Sydney-Dallas flights.

The UA flights will see United's long-range Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner darting between the two cities, with Houston – as United's Texas hub – offering onwards connections to more than 70 cities throughout North America.

And it'll be a long flight, at up to 17½ hours on the Houston-Sydney leg and a more bearable 15h45m from Sydney to Houston.

Here's how the schedule looks:

  • Flight UA100 departs Sydney at 11.50am to reach Houston at 10.35am that same day
  • Flight UA101 leaves Houston at 8pm to arrive into Sydney at 6.30am two days later

This will be United's fourth Aussie route following Sydney-Los Angeles, Melbourne-Los Angeles and Sydney-San Francisco – and like those flights, it'll run on the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fitted with 48 lie-flat business class seats, albeit in a 2-2-2 arrangement (shown below) rather than the airline's very latest direct-aisle access Polaris seats.

Still, that layout puts United's Boeing 787 seats roughly on par with the Qantas A380's Skybed Ii business class seats.

Creature comforts include pyjamas and Saks Fifth Avenue bedding...

... and Cowshed Spa products...

... which along with upgraded meals and drinks are part of the 'soft product' component of the Polaris business class proposition, even if the seats are last-gen models.

“We are delighted to provide travelers from Sydney with unparalleled easy access to the U.S. and beyond through this new route launch,” said Alison Espley, UA's managing director of Japan and Pacific Sales.

“United carefully planned this route with the convenience and comfort of our customers in mind so that we may provide them with a premier inflight service."

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

deany83

deany83

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 135

Hope the route does well for them. 

Ozark

Ozark

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

I think it will. Air NZ will not be happy at all. It will ruin their service to Houston which relies on Americans and Australians to fill their premium seats. UA has the deep pockets and the grunt to stick it out as they will on SFO to Auckland. Air NZ again will be very unhappy with this ... Americans will choose their own to fill those premium cabins and get the bang for their loyalty buck. 

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Qzark:

U've completely forgotten that UA+NZ has a profit-sharing JV in the Trans-Pcf mkt.  NZ can now sell+profit fm IAH-SYD by UA under NZ codes just like UA has been selling+profiting fm LAX-AKL by NZ under UA codes.


Your line of reasoning is fm a diff era prior to the advent+proliferation of anti-trust immunized JVs.  In the old days, a carrier makes $ only when it sell a seat AND flies   that seat.  Not any more.  Though it's hard for avg consumers to understand how JV changes the interactions between 2 or more previously independent operators in the same mkt.

On the contrary, I expect NZ to be very happy with IAH-SYD by UA as that new route 'thickens' UA+NZ Trans-Pcf network utility for customers in terms of departure choices & frequencies.  It helps their war against AA+QF in the S.Pacific theater.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Ozark:

"Americans will choose their own to fill those premium cabins and get the bang for their loyalty buck."

If U pay & fly J, U're pretty much guaranteed to earn the same miles+status credits regardless of whether your FFP is with NZ or UA(and also likely the same with any StarA carrier).  NZ miles are as good a currency as UA miles in the StarA network.  Americans can choose to fill NZ premium cabins and still get the same bang for their loyalty buck as if they've chosen to fill UA premium cabins.  

For those pax paying & flying deeply discounted Y, neither UA nor NZ will be really interested in how many are flying specifically UA or NZ metals or even which UA or NZ route due to the diff mileage earning rates for their respective FFP members....as long as those pax are NOT flying QF+AA instead.

I know my comment will be unpopular but the above is the truth re how airlines differentiate/value loyalty by which customer segment.

gavin_phillips

gavin_phillips

QF Platinum

15 Mar 2011

Total posts 3

@FLX1:

"If U pay & fly J, U're pretty much guaranteed to earn the same miles+status credits regardless of whether your FFP is with NZ or UA"

Bear in mind that US-based UA frequent fliers are also heavily driven by Premier Qualifying Dollars, not just miles and Premier Qualifying Miles.

Although you will earn the latter two on NZ (or as you point out pretty much any Star flight), you can only earn PQDs on UA metal or a UA codeshare.

It doesn't matter how many miles and PQMs you fly, you still need to make the PQD spend threshold (ticket cost before taxes and fees) to earn your status.

melbtraveler

melbtraveler

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 56

I wish them well, but will stick with Air NZ via AKL until the actual New 1-2-1 Polaris Seats make it to OZ.

DGP

DGP

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 170

I guess from Melbourne it's easier transiting via AKL than SYD to get to IAH.

Nick Sydney 2

Nick Sydney 2

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

Very sad but very true. The transfer from T2/3 to T1 is a pain. Mind you if's no different to Terminal 3 to 4 at Heathrow. QF 1 arrives at T3 and I am often out from T4 which means picking up the Heathrow Express for one stop. 

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@DGP:

Doesn't really matter to UA either way as UA+NZ Trans-Pcf networks is a profit-sharing JV.

Heck, U can even buy a UA issued ticket on UA codes for IAH-AKL-MEL operated all the way by NZ or buy a NZ issued ticket on NZ codes for IAH-LAX-MEL operated all the way by UA.  No diff for UA nor NZ as they just don't want U to buy similar journey fm AA+QF.....LoL.

Ozark

Ozark

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

I really think you'll find the NZ service will be pulled if United stick at it. Sydney is the main game and without the bulk of Americans who will probably go United...

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Ozark:

"..you'll find the NZ service will be pulled if United stick at it."

I really don't think so when I look @ the boarder UA+NZ Trans-Pcf network picture.

"Sydney is the main game.."

SYD used to be the ONLY game in the N.America-AU mkt 1-2 decades ago.  Not any more.  This is not due to SYD mkt  getting smaller but because:

1.  SYD is becoming 'crowded' with far more players.

2.  Other smaller AU mkts are growing larger.

3.  Airplanes with practical Trans-Pcf range are getting smaller & cheaper to fly.

"...without the bulk of Americans who will probably go United..."

U forgot that "the bulk of Americans" hv been able to fly routes like IAH-LAX-SYD purely on UA metal for @ least 2.5 decades.  Then LAX-MEL by UA came along to further encourage Americans to go UA only and that still didn't deterred NZ fm launching IAH-AKL to enable routes such as IAH-AKL-SYD/MEL that appears like direct competition with UA(Consumer perception only though).  Why?


The truth is that UA still only has 2 direct access points in AU mkt(i.e. SYD & MEL) while NZ has far more AU mkt reach+frequency choices via AKL.  NZ is not dumb and knew there's demand these days @ YVR, SFO, LAX and of course IAH to/fm AU mkt outside MEL+SYD via AKL hub plus the AKL/NZ-U.S. mkt itself is no small potato.

Chris_PER

Chris_PER

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Looking at that 'business class' and the service offered by United, I don't think Qantas has much to worry about.

Jedinak K

Jedinak K

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 213

It will only be a concern if United prices the route a hell of a lot cheaper than what QF charges. 

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Jedinak K:

"..will only be a concern if United prices the route a hell of a lot cheaper than what QF.."

U are so right.  That's how UA managed to survive LAX-MEL in the face of sacred+superior QF.  UA must be consistently under-cutting QF fares by "a hell of a lot" for 3yrs straight ever since they launched LAX-MEL.  Otherwise, it's impossible for UA to compete against QF in the same/similar route on other merits....

UA has deep pockets and no accountability to its shareholders+creditors so it can continue to enjoy wasting CapEx intensive hardwares like brand new 789 on LAX-MEL in order to generate peanuts fare/profit relative to QF....totally econ logical for a NYSE listed /S&P500 company with US$40b asset to do.

Mikana

Mikana

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

You're joking right? Even this version of UA's J hard product is better than anything QF currently offers on routes AU-US, much better. The Polaris soft product is highly competitive with QF, including the food which was never bad and is now very good. UA's inflight entertainment on the 789 is superb including relatively fast and reliable wifi even out in the middle of the Pacific.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Chris_PER:

Looking @ the J class hard product std+specs, there's rationally/objectively no diff between SYD-IAH by UA vs SYD-DFW by QF.  Both are horizontal flat beds and both offer no direct aisle access for every J seat.

Service though is a more subjective matter based far more on perceptions & notions which may be valid or may be out-dated.

As a result, hard to conclude "...don't think Qantas has much to worry about."  However, I do recall similar comments when UA launched MEL-LAX to compete directly against QF.  3yrs passed and MEL-LAX by UA is still around today.... 

I do agree QF will continue to hv an edge over UA but not in terms of J product+service but due largely to FFP member population size+'stickiness'(As demonstrated time & again by readers' comments here about their preference to fly QF due to lounge access, seat/upgrade redemption opportunities, etc.).

BJVincent

BJVincent

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 19

Looks soooo attractive, but as Qantas Gold we'll stick with QF7/8 for our regular visits to our family in Houston.   BHP tried so hard to convince Alan to fly direct from Sydney to Houston five(?) years ago.  Interesting to hear Alan describe BHP as a "major customer" in an interview this week, and yet he chose Dallas instead of Houston.

nix584

nix584

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 250

I can see why DFW was chosen, it's an AA hub. IAH would provide practically zero connections for QF customers and O&D would be minimal too. But one BHP contract wouldn't make the route viable like DFW would be.

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 303

Why would he have chosen Houston? Dallas is an American Airlines hub, Houston isn't. As OneWorld members, it makes perfect sense for QF to team up with American Airlines and tap into their domestic flights ex DFW.

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 303

Why would he have chosen Houston? Dallas is an American Airlines hub, Houston isn't. As OneWorld members, it makes perfect sense for QF to team up with American Airlines and tap into their domestic flights ex DFW.

andrew84

andrew84

08 Nov 2014

Total posts 20

any ideas on award availability?

kirkwoodj

kirkwoodj

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

10 Jan 2014

Total posts 4

Loads of saver biz awards available, I've already snagged a couple!

AshleyC

AshleyC

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

08 Sep 2017

Total posts 2

How exciting to see this new route added

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@AshleyC:

I'm most amazed @ the speed in which UA has been spreading new ULR routes across the Pacific.  Within the space of a little over 18mths, UA has launched SFO->SIN last yr, LAX->SIN will be online nex mth and IAH->SYD coming in Jan18.  None of these is below 17h20m block time and duration-wise, 2 of them will match/exceed the block time of PER->LHR by QF that's generating much publicity around AU.

And some folks thought the 15h50m LAX->MEL launched by UA 3yrs ago was UA pushing their 787s beyond their limits....

BrisbanePE

BrisbanePE

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 31

17.5 hours in UA economy! No chance!

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@BrisbanePE:

Can't be much worse than the 17h20m in Y for PER->LHR by QF.... 

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 405

UA economy also has appaling food service - tiny helpings, no mid flight snacks, cramped seats and very average service (over 17 hours) all-in-all no real threat to QF.

Ozark

Ozark

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

I think you're right re QF with its Aussie oneword loyalists and the US based Star loyalists will be delighted...

TZB88

TZB88

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 44

Not sure when you last flew UA out of Australia, but the economy and economy plus seats on the Dreamliner are very spacious. No way you could call them 'cramped'.

Bob Burgess

Bob Burgess

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

A real threat to QF7 SYD-DFW? Won't dislodge QF and Oneworld loyalists, and to be fair I would still rate the overall Qantas A380 business class experience well above that of United. The Qantas seats are still quite comfortable, the meals are much better, as is the SYD lounge and of course the service and attitude of the crew. I'm happy to see some competition all the same but I think like the current UA flights the majority of business travellers will be Yanks coming and going or Aussies employed by US companies with a UA-centric travel policy.

FLX1

FLX1

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Bob Burgess:

"A real threat to QF7 SYD-DFW? Won't dislodge QF and Oneworld loyalists.."

Totally agree.

"..Qantas A380 business class experience...seats are still quite comfortable.."

Probably but J seats on UA's 789 logically can't be worse.  Hardwares in the youngest QF 380 cabin are nearly 3yrs older than the oldest UA 789 cabin to be deployed on IAH-SYD....

"...meals are much better.."

No possibility that this is simply a function of catering more to Australian taste vs American taste?  What about those complaints I've read fm around here against Neil Perry's catering creation?


"..as is the SYD lounge"

It's perfectly reasonable for QF to hv a much better lounge than UA @ SYD.....SYD is the biggest/most important hub in QF network.

The key question is whether UA has a lounge in its hubs on par with QF's @ SYD or even DFW.  A clue: Learn about what exactly is the new Polaris lounge already in op today @ ORD hub and to be rolled out across other UA hubs @ SFO, LAX, IAH, EWR, etc. later in 2018.

It may shatter your preconceived notion about QF always has better lounges than UA.... 

"like the current UA flights the majority of business travellers will be Yanks coming and going or Aussies employed by US companies with a UA-centric travel policy."

Which is a moot point because the same in reverse is equally possible/likely - the current QF flights such as SYD-DFW the majority of business travelers are Aussies coming and going or Yanks employed by AU companies such as BHP or NewsCorp with a QF-centric travel policy....

TZB88

TZB88

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 44

UA doesn't have a lounge in Sydney. J class or StarA use AirNZ

Addicted2travel

Addicted2travel

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Feb 2017

Total posts 6

I'm just glad there will be more competition on this route which hopefully will see some better business class prices being offered!  After everything has been said and done if flight time is same for both airlines a saving of a couple of thousand will see me switching from QF7/QF8 in a heartbeat,  sorry Qantas!

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 303

More competition on this route? This is the only service offered on this route.

Lala295

Lala295

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Dec 2014

Total posts 45

Competition probably refers to the Texas - Australia market which is already served by Qantas (QF7/8) 

Addicted2travel

Addicted2travel

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Feb 2017

Total posts 6

That is exactly what I was referring to, thanks Lala295

aniljak

aniljak

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 84

Forbes magazine today reported Air Nz CEO looking at Auckland - Chicago  and Auckland- New York in next few years.

If they go ahead will have a big affect on United  qnd Qantas  texas flights!

Ozark

Ozark

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

Very interesting. The problem Air NZ has is the power of QF frequent flyers and the Plat One-seeking corporates out of Oz if they replicate direct services to either city. You would be relying on the US markets where NZ has no profile. A country of 4.5m people and its carrier relies on AU's 25m and the 300+ US market to make its spread viable... Now if VA joined Star and they had a good domestic offering in Australia...

Mikana

Mikana

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

As I say, the UA J hard product is at least as comfortable as QF's old J product which is what you get trans Pacific, and actually better. The food is in the American style, which having lived there for half my life, I don't mind, it's been much upgraded since Polaris, and who flies J or F for the food anyway? Puhleeze. Sure, the 2-2-2 is a drag unless you're in the middle, but it is on QF too. I suspect both will go to their new 1-2-1 product at about the same time. My personal experience on the trans-Pacific in J with both QF and UA on a fairly regular basis is that there's not much diff in the FA service. QF crew can be disturbingly chatty and casual and get snarky if you don't like something but when they're good they're very good; UA crew (mostly ex-CO on this route) can be stony and snappish and just not into it, but when they're good they great. The play book with American cabin crew is to be really polite, quietly friendly, and considerate. I'm out of MEL, but I go to IAD, JFK, and BDL. I loathe doing the 13 hours, the kerfuffle at LAX then having to get on another flight for 5-6 hours. If I could do MEL-IAH, I would do it every time just because the last leg would be only 3 hours or less. IAH is pretty much trouble free and easy, DFW more so.

Hewnix

Hewnix

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 13

Wow this is stunning news - my old hometown and my new one connect and I had no idea this was coming. And a very quick launch time with January 2018. 

I think one thing that's been undersold is the Wi-Fi aspect. Have used United wifi on LAX-MEL on 787 and it works very well over the Pacific. Qantas is a long way from offering this. Personally, I like the oppty to disconnect and watch movies and eat good food on these flights, but if we're talking 17.5 hours, and flying more frequently, then the Wi-Fi makes a big difference.

I really dislike United and love QF, I also think the transfer experience with QF at Tom Bradley LAX these days is pretty good (aside from immigration, but you have to go through that either way), but I will give this a shot. Nonstop flight routes are really psychologically nice ... I can grab a train to SYD, get on a plane, and get a car at IAH to my family's home -- that's only 3 modes of transport door-to-door. 

I have said in other comments here that you should seriously consider paying for an Economy Plus upgrade on UA's transpac 787 -- maybe on the longer IAH-SYD flight. No difference in service quality, but a more spacious "cabin" with better, larger seats and leg room. Polaris Business Class at ~$4,000 return on a direct flight is superior to QF's premium economy product which is the same fare. 

UA really don't understand long haul flying from a service perspective like QF do. No structure or order to their announcements, which can come at disturbing times. Rude FAs (some great ones, but rare). Lack of snack service. Oddly timed meals. No tooth brush kit.  And most importantly -- NO FOOT REST! Ridiculous oversight. The footrest on the QF A380 makes a huge difference for me. These things all add up, and can really cause stress and pain on a 17.5hr journey. United needs to take this seriously. 

If you're outside Sydney, probably better options than doing a domestic->intl transfer at SYD. that bus is a joke. 

We will see if UA tries to compete on price with QF. Looking at current fares for the transpac routes, it doesn't seem that way -- economy fares are virtually the same as QF. 

All in all, more competition is welcome, and more direct flights to hubs like IAH open up Latin America in a big way. 

Jon W

Jon W

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

Just a question from a relative newb. Who does UA rely on for feeder traffic in Oz? I assume the NZ tie-up doesn't really give them many domestic Oz options.

I mean AA have QF and DL have VA, yet UA has more flights into Oz than either of those carriers. Are they just relying on the SYD and MEL markets?

I'm guessing a direct SYD-ATL on DL can't be too far away now either.

Stranded

Stranded

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2015

Total posts 11

Having flown SYD - IAH 16 times in the last 2 years on all carrier options over the pacific ( AA, DL, NZ, VA, QF & UA) this is welcome news - only Air NZ has a better J class product. I am QF Plat and the current A380 seat is poor, no storage and entertainment is falling behind. United 787-9 is better seat than QF current product - direct flight over a connection is a winner

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