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The World’s Longest 787 Dreamliner Flight – United, LAX to Melbourne

Discussion in 'Trip Experiences' started by vegli, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. vegli

    vegli Hangar Gold Member I

    Oct 12, 2012
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    United States United States
    31 Dec2015
    A United 787-9 touching down – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    United’s daily service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL), Australia is the world’s longest Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight. The long flight (UA98 is scheduled for 15 hours, 50 minutes) allowed me to not only put the 787-9 to the test, but also United’s Economy Plus product.

    Flights from LAX to Melbourne take off in the late evening and arrive in the early morning, so the outbound flight is quite easy to sleep on, assuming you aren’t contemplating the remoteness of the vast Pacific Ocean. The routing typically takes the aircraft out on runway 25R, and after an eternity over open water, high above Kiribati, American Samoa, and Fiji, before crossing the Tasman Sea, leaving less than an hour of flying time over land.

    Economy Plus on the United 787

    As you enjoy your breakfast, you can gaze out on a sunrise over the Australian Alps and observe the Dreamliner’s wings, which are nearly free of fuel, in their most upward-bent shape. I was excited for the flight, but not sure if United could come through during such a long trip.

    Boarding my United 787-9 flight at LAX – Photo: Hans Cathcart

    UNITED 787: Economy Plus Subscription Service
    The extra legroom provided in Economy Plus is a godsend when traveling on long-haul flights. The difference on the 787-9 is an extra 3” of seat pitch (35 vs. 32-inches) and 1 extra degree of recline (4 vs. 3). With low-level silver elite status in United’s frequent flyer program, you can usually upgrade your seat during check-in 24 hours before departure, but on popular flights you can’t bet on getting a window seat, or an upgrade at all.

    BONUS: Flying first class on a United Boeing 787 Dreamliner

    The annual Economy Plus Subscription Service (Domestic $499 / Global $699) allows you to pick an Economy Plus seat at time of ticket purchase on United flights, even when using award miles for travel (I traded in 80,000 miles plus $100 to fly round-trip). However, when you have silver status or higher and choose to buy this service, you have to get over the idea of paying United for a seat upgrade you’ll very likely get anyway on less popular flights. If you have no status and have started to fly United regularly, it’s a pretty good deal; on subsequent domestic flights, I’ve found getting to book my Economy Plus seat ahead of time is nice.

    Another benefit of sitting in the Economy Plus section on the Dreamliner is that you’re on the wing, which not only gets you an impressive view of the distinctive flexing airfoil, but it also absorbs the turbulence a little better since you’re sitting closer to the center of the aircraft.

    Screen shots of the United App

    UNITED 787: Mobile App
    It merits mentioning that United has done some nice work on their mobile app. In this age of agile software development with rapid release-cycles it’s hard to build a perfect app, but in my years of using United’s app on the iPhone and iPad it has always worked well for me.

    The app has always recognized my status and even had the Economy Plus Subscription Service feature activated almost as soon as I had paid for it. That’s the sign of a well integrated product team. The only “bug” that I’ve found so far is that on my return flight from Australia, the app listed my connecting flight to SFO ahead of my 787 flight because, due to our flying over the International Date Line, the second leg of my flight departed before my first leg in local time.

    Dinner and dessert on United – Photo: Hans Cathcart

    UNITED 787: The food + service
    The cabin crew on this Dreamliner flight was great. It was Halloween, and the ex-Continental crew had candy and were in good spirits. They even had a little fun on the PA system before the first passengers boarded. You’ll typically find ex-Continental crew working these expanding Dreamliner routes, as flight attendant contract negotiations have stalled, and ex-United and ex-Continental crews remain on separate contracts. Until a new contract has been negotiated, the separate cabin crews fly on their own respective aircraft.

    BONUS: Flying United BusinessFirst & economy on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

    After departure, the cabin crew served dinner, which was soon followed by a surprising cheese and cracker dessert with caramel gelato. I’m not sure that’s a pairing I would have invented. The flight attendants were very attentive during the flight, yet worked hard to keep the interruptions to a minimum since most people were trying to catch some sleep.

  2. David Barnshaw

    David Barnshaw Hangar Gold Member I

    Dec 30, 2012
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    United Kingdom United Kingdom
    Yep--Boeing still the best.

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