United to launch Los Angeles-Melbourne with 787-9

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United Airlines will launch non-stop service between Los Angeles and Melbourne from 26 October, using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

The route will be the first international deployment for the type by the airline, which is the North American launch customer of the 787-9. The aircraft will be configured with 48 seats in business class and 204 in economy.

"Our customers on these new flights will enjoy a more convenient itinerary, as well as improved inflight comfort and amenities. At the same time, we will seek to make changes to our Sydney schedule which will enable faster connections via our San Francisco and Los Angeles hubs from points throughout the Americas," says United's chief revenue officer Jim Compton.

United will operate six times weekly on the route, and will end service between Melbourne and Sydney with the new flights. It says it will re-time its daily flights to Sydney from San Francisco and Los Angeles to allow for easier connections by passengers travelling on connecting flights from Sydney to New York and other cities.

The Star Alliance has nine 787s in its fleet, with another 56 on order. Its first two 787-9s will be delivered by end-2014.

United will compete against Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia on the Los Angeles-Melbourne route. Qantas operates daily while Virgin Australia flies three times weekly, schedules in Innovata show.