United’s non-stop services between Melbourne and Los Angeles start today, with the inaugural flight also marking the first route for the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Replacing the previous Melbourne-Sydney-Los Angeles runs on UA’s Boeing 777s, the Dreamliner goes head-to-head with Qantas' daily Airbus A380 flights on the same route.
Also read: The longest Boeing 787 flight in the world
Ahead of the inaugural flight and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff told journalists and travellers that “the new non-stop service means that passengers don't have to transfer through that sad, declining, high-cost, low-service airport in New South Wales.”
Greeting passengers on board are 48 lie-flat beds in BusinessFirst with 198cm of space to stretch out and enjoy a full night’s sleep, plus a 35cm touchscreen entertainment system, laptop power, USB ports and inflight wireless internet.
In economy, you’ll find 116 standard seats with an adjustable headrest and a 22.8cm personal seatback entertainment screen, plus 88 Economy Plus seats that give travellers 35” of space from headrest to headrest – three full inches more than that of regular economy.
Business travellers stuck down the back in either economy or Economy Plus can also keep their gadgets charged throughout the flight with in-seat power outlets within reach of every passenger.
UA99 pushes back at 10:15am on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and 2:15pm on Saturday, to reach Los Angeles at 6:50am and 10:50am, respectively, on the same calendar days.
On the return, UA98 takes to the skies at 10:30pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and at 9:30pm on Thursdays, arriving in Melbourne at 8:15am and 7:15am two calendar days later.
Passengers checking in for the maiden voyage across the Pacific were greeted by Southern Californian icons such as Marilyn Monroe, a Dodgers baseball player and a Lakers basketball player, and were given commemorative baggage tags:
Already flying six times weekly, United is bumping up the Melbourne-LA run to daily from March 12 2015, while Qantas is adding three extra weekly flights to its already-daily schedule from January 21.
Melbourne-based Virgin Australia Velocity members can earn points on United by first crediting them to Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer scheme and then converting those miles in to Velocity points from next month.
Chris Chamberlin is visiting Melbourne as a guest of United Airlines.
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