@airlineroute reports that by Spring of 2016 United Airlines will abandon first class service to Australia and use 787s for all longhaul international routes out of Los Angeles.
First Class to Australia on United Airlines Axed from SFO and LAX
United is ceding first class on its Australia routes to Qantas and American, joining Delta and Virgin Australia in offering business class as its highest cabin of service. Is it any coincidence that as American Airlines enters the fray from LAX-SYD, offering daily service beginning this December in a three-cabin 777-300ER, United is pulling back?
I think not. United CEO Jeff Smisek has indicated that first class, Global First as United calls, will be gradually eliminated and rather than compete with American Airlines head-on (which, beleive it or not, I think UA could fight and win), United has taken the easy way out and just bowed out of the competition.
United also offers a three-cabin first class product on its daily flight between San Francisco and Sydney but first class will be cut from that route too, also now scheduled to be operated by a 787-9 by Spring 2016. Qantas resumes SFO-SYD service this winter, but will operate a 747-400 on the route with no first class.
This news actually could be a boon to upgraders. Many consider United’s 2-2-2 787 configuration in business class as noncompetitive in an era of 1-2-1 seating, but for those looking to upgrade the business class to economy class ratio on a 787-9 is much better than the 777. Lie-flat seating is standard across the United fleet.
United Airlines LAX Longhauls Will Exclusively Use 787s
United currently operates daily longhaul service from LAX to:
- London (777-200)
- Melbourne (787-9)
- Shanghai (787-8)
- Sydney (777-200)
- Tokyo (787-8 or 787-9)
London and Sydney will transition to 787s in Spring 2016.
There has been talk about the future of the LA – London flight and before Seattle – Tokyo Narita was cut, it also was tentatively changed from a 777 to 787. There is reason for hope that London will remain, for Delta has announced that it will no longer continue non-stop service between LAX and LHR, leaving United to compete with British Airways, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Air New Zealand (as it has for years).
San Francisco Will Lose 777s
San Francisco will also lose 777s, with all international flights being operated by 787s or 747s.
United currently operates daily longhaul service from SFO to:
- Beijing (747-400)
- Chengdu (787-8)
- Hong Kong (747-400)
- London (777-200 or 747-400)
- Frankfurt (747-400)
- Osaka (787-8)
- Paris (767-300)
- Seoul (747-400)
- Shanghai (747-400)
- Sydney (777-200)
- Taipei (777-200)
- Tokyo Haneda (777-200)
- Tokyo Narita (747-400)
Houston will gain 767s/777s and lose some of its 787s, though Houston to Lagos will likely remain on a 787-8 and United continues to take deliveries of 787-9s. Paris and Taipei are likely candidates for a 787-8 while Sydney will get the 787-9.
Upgrades may be easier to Australia, but an era is over — first class is dying a slow death (Asiana also announced today it is ripping first class out of its 777s and 747s) but ironically enjoying a renaissance on those carriers who are serious about investing in it and differentiating it from business class.
The consolidation of 787s at LAX and SFO will lead to one advantage if nothing else — the lower cabin pressurization on the Dreamliner gives you a noticeably strong upper hand in the fight against jet lag.