United’s 777-300ERs Will Soon Fly To Auckland, New Zealand

United introduced Polaris on December 1, 2016, which is the name for their new first & business class experience. This includes new airport loungesimproved food & beveragesbetter bedding, and also new seats.


United’s 777-300ER Polaris cabin

The catch is that United’s new business class seat is so far only available on 777-300ER aircraft (though they’ve started reconfiguring a single 767-300, which should be in service soon). United ordered a total of 18 777-300ERs — 14 of these planes have already been delivered to United, while another four will be delivered in the coming months.

As a result, the number of United routes being operated by 777-300ER aircraft is increasing quickly:

With only a few more 777-300ERs remaining to be delivered, United has just announced their next route for the aircraft. Per @airlineroute, United’s 777-300ER will fly the San Francisco to Auckland between October 29, 2017, and March 22, 2018. The flight was previously scheduled to be operated by a Boeing 787-9, so on the surface this is a sizable capacity increase.

United’s 787-9s feature 48 business class seats and 204 economy seats, while United’s 777-300ERs feature 60 business class seats and 306 economy seats. So the route is gaining 12 business class and 102 economy class seats per flight.

The flight operates with the following schedule:

UA917 San Francisco to Auckland departing 10:45PM arriving 8:55AM (+2 days)
UA916 Auckland to San Francisco departing 3:30PM arriving 6:50AM

The catch is that United is reducing the frequencies on the San Francisco to Auckland route as they upgrade the plane:

  • From October 29, 2017, through December 17,2 017, they’ll operate 6x weekly flights rather than 7x weekly flights
  • From December 18, 2017, to March 22, 2018, they’ll operate 7x weekly flights rather than 10x weekly flights

So while the capacity is increasing on a per flight basis, overall capacity will be about flat, when you take into account the frequency changes.

United first began flying to Auckland in July 2016, though as of this year they’ve made the flight seasonal (American has done the same with their Auckland flight, as clearly demand is limited in Northern Summer). Personally, I’m a bit surprised to see United flying a 777-300ER to Auckland ahead of Sydney.


United’s 777-300ER Polaris seat

While they’re not increasing the overall capacity by that much, in general they seem to be putting the 777-300ERs on business routes in hopes of attracting more high yield passengers. Clearly Auckland isn’t a business destination for United, based on the fact that it’s only a seasonal flight. So while this change frees up some 787-9s, I’m surprised they’re using two of their 18 777-300ERs for this route.

I even see a few dates with saver level award availability in business class, for anyone who wants to redeem miles for a good product to a beautiful country. On some dates economy is more expensive than business class — that’s a tough decision. 😉

Are you surprised to see United fly the 777-300ER to Auckland?

Comments

  1. Didn’t Emirates upgraded their non stop flight to Auckland to the A380 rather quickly due to strong premium demands?

    Maybe the premium market is quite good in Auckland. 😉

  2. U left out a major piece of the puzzle …

    Original plan was 10x weekly 787-9
    New plan is 7x weekly 77W

    so when you do all the math, the total seat count is roughly flat. Maybe they needed that 787-9 to handle other yield-depressed Chinese markets.

  3. Ord Polaris lounge looked like Filenes basement during wedding dress sale.
    Not a seat to be found.
    Doesn’t United do any marketing studies before rolling something out?
    Done with that.

  4. Australia NZ flights have big premium demand due to the length of the flights. And AKL is a great transit hub to fly into the rest of Australia as Sydney is the only city with direct service to sfo from Australia.

  5. My wife and I have been discussing a trip to Perth, so a stopover in NZ would be a fun start to the trip. Would it be difficult to construct this with out half million United miles: SFO -> AKL -> PER -> SFO, all in business?

  6. Flew out of AKL on Emirates a380 last week. 10 pax in business. Had the whole back cabin to myself. 2 other EK 380’s on ground. Gate areas empty before departure, and this after dropping one route.

    @Robert F. Unfortunately you won’t get to PER w/United points. Air New Zealand never releases space to PER, but to SYD is doable. The 2 carriers in Australia are Qantas (points with AA BA AS) and Vigin Australia (points with DL, EY, SQ). Saver awards are always available to Perth and it’s a fantastic city.

  7. Flew on one of the first ones in Polaris from Newark to Chicago while they were just testing on domestic routes. Awesome experience.

  8. Makes no sense. The market for SFO-AKL is not that strong to warrant a 77W. They should’ve stuck with 789.

  9. Yeah, although these new planes are definitely nice, this totally upset my travel plans. I was going to fly from AKL to SFO on January 1 at 5:40 on a UA 787, and then they cancelled that flight (one of the three weekly flights that they have reduced) so now there are only three business class seats left on the new flight (as opposed to 18 or so on the old 787). New Polaris seats don’t matter if you’re not the one in them. Not to mention, I have to totally rearrange my schedule in new zealand to accommodate the departure from Auckland over two hours earlier. At first I was excited to be on the new equipment, now I am staring at a 12 hour trip in economy and the need to rebook a new ferry back to Auckland. Thanks United.

  10. @Jake – 18 is correct. 4 more were ordered at the Paris air show this year for delivery in Q4 2018. All 14 of original order have been delivered.

  11. @Mark and @Robert F – NZ does release space to PER. It’s very rare, but I’m booked with miles on SFO-AKL-CHC-PER in a couple of months. It was originally in F from SFO-AKL but then changed to C on the 787 and is now Polaris (yay!) on the 777-300ER.

  12. Then you need to change your handle @Not Lucky because you were! Congrats. I’ve never seen it but good for you. I also flew NZ’s 787 business class last week. The new Polaris seats on UA are like first class compared to the coffins NZ has stuffed in their beautiful 787’s. Of course the food is pretty good on NZ and their lounges are great. Have a good trip, beautiful country.

  13. Lucky, you’re pretty quick to make generalisations about the NZ aviation market and premium yields. You did the same thing on the SQ SIN-CBR-WLG service. This switch has a lot to do with pressure from Air NZ to have a stronger premium product out of SFO on the NZ/UA code shares with UA metal. To Aman’s point; premium cabin yields to NA are surprisingly strong (check out Air NZ’s latest results, and reconfiguring of their 787) due to flight length. It makes a lot of sense.

  14. Those 787 ‘coffins’ will be the herringbone layout Air NZ licensed from Virgin for its 777-219s, marketed it as BusinessPremier and has since updated. 1-1-1 layout on the 787-9s and there are two versions; 6 or 9 BusPrem rows – good seatmaps are on Air NZ’s NZ website. https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/seat-map-boeing-787-9-2

    They are also reconfiguring their 777-300s so there are now two versions of those. The nine rows of unusual 2-2-2 unusual Premium Economy Spaceseat herringbone/reverse herringbone layout is being replaced by 8 rows of a more conventional 2-4-2 layout to meet demand as PremEcon has been so successful as per MediaKiwi’s comments. https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/seat-map-boeing-777-300

    Initially there was an extra Spaceseat row but legroom was too tight and it was removed.

  15. I’m booked on SFO-AKL flights in November, when there will be only 6x flights per week. Any word on what days they won’t be running 777-300s? And will they be flying them on the return as well?

  16. Since the inception of the SFO/AKL route by United the premium cabins have seen an increased population by cruise line passengers either originating/terminating in AKL (AKL c;uise traffic has grown exponentially) and enjoying a ‘package’ price including RT airfare in their cruise purchase. As such it is not generally the business market that is growing as fast as the seasonal cruise market for premium cabin seats.

  17. Booked on SFO-AKL in December in Polaris. Got an email that flight time and aircraft changed. AKL-SFO is now two hours earlier. So excited to fly on new aircraft and have the Polaris hard product.

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