United to fly Airbus A350-1000 to Sydney, Melbourne

By David Flynn, June 21 2013
United to fly Airbus A350-1000 to Sydney, Melbourne

United Airlines has earmarked Sydney and Melbourne as routes for its Airbus A350-1000, the next-gen jetliner which will go up against both Boeing's 787-10 and 777X long-range aircraft.

It will be a dramatic upgrade for United's Australian routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, which currently plod along on Boeing 747-400s that even United CEO Jeff Smisek agrees is sub-par.

“The back of the product on the 747 that United flies to Australia is not an acceptable level of product” Smisek admitted to Australian Business Traveller in December 2010, citing the fact that inflight entertainment in economy is limited to a handful of TVs that drop down from the ceiling.

United and Airbus overnight confirmed that the airline will add 35 A350-1000s to its fleet, which United said in a statement "will be operated by United on higher density routes, including non-stop flights between the United States and the Asia/Pacific region."

The A350-1000 is the largest member of the Airbus A350 family, designed to seat around 350 passengers in a three-class layout.

But a five-year wait for that boarding call...

However, the A350-1000 is some five years away from flying in United's colours. While the A350-900 is expected to make its commercial debut in the second half of 2014, the 1000 won't follow until 2017, with United's order to be filled in 2018.

That still means a lot of miles in United's 747-400s, although a forthcoming upgrade to streaming wifi and inflight internet will help pass the time.

Speaking on the sidelines of this week's entry of EVA Airways into the Star Alliance group, Smisek told Australian Business Traveller that "later this year we will introduce streaming video" onto the Australia-bound Boeing 747-400s.

"We're putting power throughout the airplane plus satellite-based wifi so travellers can stay in touch wherever they are."

However, economy passengers will need to bring their own tablets, smartphones and laptops to use the the streaming video service, which will make the on-demand content of business class available to all passengers over wifi – United won't be fitting personal video screens to any of the seats.

Smisek doesn't see this as a problem, however. "Everybody has their own devices these days" he said, "and if they don't have on on the first flight they'll remember to bring one the next time!"

Australian Business Traveller attended the EVA Air / Star Alliance media event in Taipei as a guest of Star Alliance.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter – we're @AusBT


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.

I think the United rep is confused with this line... "and if they don't have on on the first flight they'll remember to bring one the next time!" I think they mean, "if they don't have on the first flight, they'll book with someone else for future flights". Glad to see that something will happen eventually, however there's still at least 5years before anything happens - and a lot can happen in 5years. 

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

Also, as I understand it the "upgrade" isn't going to include power sockets at every seat anyway, so unless your battery lasts fourteen hours you're out of luck.

Besides, if the new 787s are anything to go by, then just because United invests in a fancy new aircraft doesn't mean they're going to make the interior any good. Flying on a United 787 is just like flying on a United 767, except more crowded.

Undoubtedly, UA will fit the A350 with ten-abreast seating, and you'll pine for the old days of the 747s.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

I agree that most people will have their own devices, but I am sure that the wifi will not be free and since all other airlines plying the Australia - North America market offer their economy passengers with free AVOD, UA is light years behind if they do not upgrade the back of their planes. No power socket also a big miss, even if they put one in per three or four seats. how is yoru device going to last 13+ hours across the pond. I can see the economics from UA point of view, as the 744 will be retired soon after the new generation of jets arrive they do not want to invest, however, I predict they will start loosing market share soon, as their offering is just not competitive.

As for the new A350's, I am not holding my breath,  I still remember the plan of UA to fly the 787 from IAH-AKL, never happened....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 148

I'm pretty sure that when they say wi-fi, they actually mean AVOD over wi-fi as per the Qantas iPads and Virgin wi-fi trial, rather than internet (though that could be a paid component of the wifi).


23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

Airlines like United will not get my business while continuing to provide yesteryear's product. 

When travelling to the US I prefer to fly the long route via Dubai or Abu Dhabi as the service and seating on the Arab carriers is far superior to anything offered Trans Pacific. 

Im talking J class. Though economy without a personal screen is unbelievable in this day and age. 


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Ben84, seriously? You fly Australia to the US via Dubai or Abu Dhabi instead of just direct with Qantas? That must cost you a packet extra, it'd certainly take a LOT more time too!


23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

I am not impressed by QANTAS.

I like the 1-2-1 seating offered by the Arab carriers, compared to the 2-2-2 offered by QANTAS. 

- There is no battling through LAX and endless security. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are excellent cities to stopover when I choose to do so. Great hotels and plenty of interesting things to do. 

- I am more likely to score an upgrade with Emirates or Etihad than I am with QANTAS. 

- Flying Etihad or Emirates is actually cheaper than booking with QANTAS. On my last trip, the difference between Etihad and QANTAS was $2,000. 

The extra time in the air in a superior seat is worth it. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 233

You could also fly with Korean Air, Asiana, Cathay Pacific or ANA as they are also transpacific. Not sure how much extra they will cost. Air New Zealand is also a good option. 


23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

The only one out of that group that I'd even consider flying with is Cathay. 

But I'll stick to EY and EK. Very happy with the former's product and EK is okay too. 

The Middle East airlines know how to package a good product. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 361

Why anyone would fly United across the Pacific is beyond me when there are so many other options. 

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 31

When  United/the article says that they are looking at the A350-T for Sydney and Melbourne, do they mean that they are looking at opening a non stop MEL-LAX/SFO service or just continuing the UA839/40 route with new equipment? The stop at SYD isn't too inconvient (certianly light years ahead of having to do a DOM-INT transfer at SYD) but a non stop from MEL would be nice.

Fair enough that UA don't want to splash the cash on the 747s that most other airlines are about to or have already scraped. It does mean though that they have very much cornered themselves into only being able to compete on price. Being someone who has flown MEL-LAX with UA in Y and found it passablee, I don't mean to be critical, but if other carriers can match UA on price (or get reasonably close) then they're going to go with the opposition every day of the week. Even when the new planes finally hit Australian tarmac, they might find it difficult to shake the cheap and nasty image, particularly if they've been a bit stingy on the optional extras.

The comments from United CEO;  "and if they don't have on on the first flight they'll remember to bring one the next time!",  displays a level of arrogance beyond belief.   Where's the respect for their loyal customers? 


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 352

Absolutely agreed, DB. The height of arrogance to say that "everybody" travels with an iPhone or iPad. Smisek needs to wake up to himself, he has SYD-SFO all to himself but that could change so quickly. If Virgin Australia puts its 777 onto SYD-SFO with onward connections via Virgin America's SFO terminal, I think they would clean up and United wouldn't know what hit them!!

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