The US carrier looks to expand service routes.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Photo: United Airlines

United Airlines has announced that it will be operating flights on a new route from San Francisco (SFO) to Brisbane (BNE) as part of a new partnership with Virgin Australia. The announcement comes as the US carrier looks to expand its flight network in an effort to reach a greater number of destinations.

A post-pandemic world

United’s decision to serve a new route follows the recent trend of airlines rapidly expanding their network to accommodate a revitalized demand for travel. This trend marks a stark contrast from just over two years ago when airlines were canceling flights on once-popular routes due to the sharp drop in demand from the pandemic. It also marks the beginning of a return to normalcy for aviation, which has lagged behind other industries in its recovery. In United’s case, it finally marks an instance in which flights are operating more frequently than they were even before the pandemic.

New alliances

The decision to offer service on a new route comes at the perfect time, following the commencement of a new partnership between United and Virgin in May of this year. The airlines are allowed to codeshare each other’s flights, and their customers may earn and redeem frequent flier miles indiscriminately between the two as part of the agreement. The partnership will no doubt encourage travelers between North America and Australia to fly with one of the airlines.

United Virgin

Photo: Virgin Australia

Greater flexibility

The new route also increases flexibility for travelers. Previously, there were only two routes operated by United to Australia: Houston (IAH) to Sydney (SYD) and Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL). Both of these routes currently fly three times a week and are expected to fly daily by the end of the year, marking a drastic increase from even pre-pandemic flight levels. But the addition of a new route that flies thrice weekly also gives travelers looking to fly out of Northern California’s travel hub the ability to do so. Travelers from the East Coast will still have to fly with Qantas if they are looking to fly direct to Australia.

It is worth noting that all three routes flown by United to Australia are with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

The addition of a new flight from San Francisco to Brisbane to the United catalog is one that will bring great benefit to travelers flying between North America and Australia. In addition, it marks the return of demand for travel to pre-pandemic levels (and in some cases, even more than that), the solidification of a new partnership with Virgin Australia, and the advent of more flexible travel offerings. However, only time will tell if the new route will be as popular as United expects it to be. Other airlines that are also considering expanding their flight offerings will no doubt be watching United’s gamble closely to see if it pays off. If it does, travelers can likely expect to have a number of new options to choose from when flying in the years to come.


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