United Adds Houston To Sydney Route — Now That’s A Long Flight

Filed Under: United

United sure is on an ultra longhaul kick lately. In June 2016, United launched a San Francisco to Singapore flight, which is the longest flight operated by any US airline. In October they’re adding a Los Angeles to Singapore flight, which is even longer.

Now United has announced yet another ultra longhaul flight. As of January 18, 2018, United will offer daily nonstop flights between Houston and Sydney. This complements United’s existing flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Sydney. The flight operate with the following schedule:

UA101 Houston to Sydney departing 8:00PM arriving 6:30AM (+2 days)
UA100 Sydney to Houston departing 11:50AM arriving 10:35AM

United’s new Houston to Sydney flight will be flown with a Boeing 787-9, featuring 252 seats, including 48 business class seats, 63 Economy Plus seats, and 141 economy seats.

At 8,596 miles, this will be United’s second longest flight. It’s blocked at 17hr30min westbound and 15hr45min eastbound. After United launches this flight, they’ll offer the three longest flights of any US airline:

  • Los Angeles to Singapore: 8,770 miles
  • Houston to Sydney: 8,596 miles
  • San Francisco to Singapore: 8,447 miles

United will also operate two of the world’s four longest flights (which are Doha to Auckland, Dubai to Auckland, Los Angeles to Singapore, and Houston to Sydney).

This will also only be the second flight from the mainland US to Australia that doesn’t depart from California. Qantas operates a flight from Dallas to Sydney using an A380, which is about 20 miles shorter than this Houston route.

This new flight is already bookable, and there’s even some saver level business class award availability, though it seems to be mostly on Tuesdays. Nonetheless, if you do want to redeem miles for the flight at the saver level, it’s an option, even for travel in January and February. I suspect those seats won’t last.

On one hand this is exciting expansion for United, on the other hand this sounds like a terribly unpleasant flight in all cabins. I of course feel the worst for economy passengers on this flight, though it’s a shame that none of United’s 787s actually feature their new Polaris seats, meaning that there won’t be direct aisle access from every seat.

Instead passengers will get United’s outdated B/E Aerospace Diamond seats.

Congrats to United on making this growth happen, given that historically it was nearly impossible to turn a profit on such routes. And I guess kudos to Airbus and Boeing as well, for building planes that make this possible. But goodness gracious, that’s a long flight…

Would you take United’s flight out of Houston for the convenience, or avoid it for the length?

  1. Would be great to have a real Polaris seat on such a long flight but they are not coming to Dreamliners.

    P.S. I bet Air New Zealand is not particularly happy about this.

  2. Idea for an article: the effect these long flights have on the human body. Especially for the economy passengers and crew. Also, do these ultra long-haul flights carry any extra medical equipment?

  3. @Ivan

    I donut ANZ is too upset as they already have JV with United down to Auckland so they both know what traffic might be lost to the direct flight.

  4. I’d do this flight. I think Polaris would be better but the offering isn’t that much worse than the AA DFW-HKG route. At least AA has a First class cabin on that flight. Boy it’s a long way. My mind can’t even imagine the hell that it would be in regular economy as I’m 6’2″ with long legs. At least they are 9 across instead of 10 across on the UA 787-9’s last time I looked.

  5. @DaninMCI 10 across on a 787 would be illegal i think… aisles and seats too narrow. The 787 is the right size for 2-4-2 and you can get away with 3-3-3, 3-4-3 is murder…

  6. @lucky-would this flight require 3 planes by united with the (+2) days change westbound, if it was to operated daily?

  7. Odd that LAX to SYD is an hour longer than SFO to SYD given that LAX is further south than SFO. Presumably the flights hug the coast and so go north before they go south?

    Why won’t UA’s 787’s get the new Polaris seats?

  8. what is the big deal, flew Dfw-syd with QF twice and it doesnt feel long at all, slept for 10 hrs and a few movies and we are there.

  9. I am curious to see how this will be staffed/flown. UAL is in the process of closing their IAH 787 pilot base. With FRMS rules applying to Ultra long haul certain rest requirements have to be satisfied prior and after the trip.

    Will this mean IAH will reopen a 787 base? Denver has a DEN-NRT flight previously flown by a combination of IAH,SFo,LAX crews. Although it is not a FRMS flight so rest requirements are different.

  10. How does the speed of a 787-9 compare to an A380 on the DFW route? I always heard the airbus flies slower and it probably makes a real difference on such a long route.

  11. Also could be beneficial for increasing PQM in some cases. For example, instead of SEA-SFO-SYD (8,096mi), SEA-IAH-SYD (10,470mi) is a valid routing with almost 5,000 more PQM on the roundtrip.

  12. To those saying Dreamliners won’t have Polaris seats, this is not quite true. United’s 787-10s will be delivered with the new seats.

  13. Seats show up in an Aeroplan search, but are not currently bookable. How long does it typically take United to load new flights into the Aeroplan system?

  14. Henry

    Good point about LA being further East. Even so, when I flew SFO to Asia, we went north, flying over Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, the Aleutians and then down past Japan, Korea etc.

    On the way back we cut straight across the Pacific.

    Just one data point though

  15. @choi lu … I wish I could sleep 10 hours on a flight! The only answer to this one… drugs.
    Just on the relatively short PVG-SFO, I saw a woman pop a pill when we took off and she was out until they prepared for landing! She knew how to do it!

  16. @Martin Route can depend on the jet stream or weather, but the circle routes are deceptive when looking at a two dimensional map. In the “oh really” department, LAX is actually farther east tha Reno, Nevada. The closest point on mainland U.S.A to HNL is a point a bit north of San Francisco.

  17. When in my 20’s I did the jfk -nrt non-stop twice a month as f.a. on Pan Am. 13hr 45 min one way. I had 2 periods monthly for 3 months until I got used to the route. Jet lag was tremendous- became a fitness fanatic and runner to deal with that. FDA has reseached f.a.s that did these long haul for years- a lot of breast cancer found. I’m in my late 60’s- the fitness and eating right has helped me. I flew 10 years.

  18. @Jon Having answered the call for ‘is there a doctor onboard ?’, my husband is always impressed with the array of medical equipment and medication found on long-haul flights.

  19. @Martin – The winds in the Pacific generally make it prohibitive from going direct across from US to Asia. Going north is a longer route, but can be quicker and burn less fuel due to staying out of the jetstream. Weather systems also play a factor and ETOPS requirements for whatever equipment you were on. The shortest route isn’t always the best under different circumstances.


  20. I thought SFO-SIN on SQ31 was one of the longest. At least a that’s what the flight attendants said.

  21. Martin said:

    >Even so, when I flew SFO to Asia, we went north, flying over Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, the Aleutians and then down past Japan, Korea etc.

    Dear Martin,

    I encourage you to pick up an old-fashioned globe. Keep it handy to look at before commenting on internet boards. Because that’s the most retarded comment I have ever seen, which says a lot considering I accidentally went on WaPo’s website once.

  22. I just booked this flight for my wife and I using all the miles I had, plus a few more I had to buy, for a couple of economy seats. I’m getting anxious about the length but we made a trip from Dallas to Tokyo (15 years ago) and survived. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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