United Airlines has announced a tripling of flight capacity into Brisbane from the US just six months after establishing a non-stop service from San Francisco that is said to be proving popular with local businesses looking for direct access to Silicon Valley.
Brisbane Airport Corporation has announced that United plans to offer a non-stop service from Los Angeles to Brisbane towards the end of this year, while upgrading its existing three services a week into San Francisco to a daily schedule after the route proved to be an unexpected hit with international travellers.
The new services will be introduced 12 months ahead of expectations and will bring the airline’s capacity to 10 services a week from 1 December 2023. The new daily service to San Francisco will begin from 29 October 2023.
United Airlines, which swooped into the Brisbane market for the first time with its San Francisco service in October last year, is the only airline to offer a direct flight between the US city and Brisbane.
Industry sources say the route has proved popular with Brisbane businesses looking to gain direct access to Silicon Valley, with Brisbane regularly boasting a very tech-heavy list of top publicly-listed companies compared to Sydney and Melbourne. Out of Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs, 23 are from Greater Brisbane while a further 12 are from the Gold Coast nearby.
The move is also a sign of the growing importance of the Brisbane route to United Airlines as the world’s third-largest carrier continues to rebuild its network following the pandemic.
"Our enhanced network will make United the largest carrier between the US and Brisbane and provide unparalleled access and connectivity for travellers," says Patrick Quayle, United Airlines’ senior vice president of global network planning and alliances.
The new route and flight schedule comes on the heels of a solid rebound in tourism and business travel nationally, and follows Tourism Research Australia forecasts that international visitor expenditure is set to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024 while international visitor arrivals are expected to hit new records in 2025.
"To be announcing six months after the first United flight arrival from San Francisco that it’s already going daily, and that LA is now on Brisbane’s schedule is just mind blowing,” says Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff.
“It’s better than anything I could have ever predicted in this current global environment."
With Brisbane Airport processing more than 75 per cent of all international arrivals into Queensland, De Graaff says the new Los Angeles route and the upgraded San Francisco service will be a boon for the tourism and hospitality sector across the state.
"Queensland exporters will also welcome the significant additional cargo capacity that comes with increasing the number of international flights to our state," he says.
"For example, the inaugural United Airlines flight from Brisbane to San Francisco wasn’t just filled with passengers, it carried more than 15 tonnes of high-quality refrigerated Queensland beef bound for US dining tables, generating welcome export dollars and returns for the state’s farming communities.”
United Airlines’ increased capacity into Brisbane Airport is also set to benefit Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer members following an alliance announced between the two airlines last year.
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has welcomed the increased capacity into Brisbane, citing the US as one of the state’s top five inbound tourism markets.
"Our strong trans-Pacific partnership with United and Brisbane Airport is behind the airlines’ decision to fly direct from Los Angeles for the first time from December,” Hinchliffe says.
"This is great news for Queensland tourism operators and the rebuild of our international visitor economy."
Today's news is part of a broader expansion in Australia and New Zealand. From 28 October, the airline will fly twice daily between San Francisco and Sydney, offering more flights to the NSW capital from the US than any other carrier - a claim it already boasts for Melbourne.
From the same date, United will deploy its largest airplane on flights between San Francisco and Melbourne, adding nearly 100 daily seats to each departure, which combined with a greater frequency of flights since late 2022 will equate to 65 per cent more seats on its Melbourne routes.
The airline offers 14 weekly roundtrip flights from California to the Victorian capital, with one daily flight from both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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