Following in the wake of legendary aviation pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, United Airlines made aviation history this morning in Brisbane. When United Airlines UA96 touched down at Brisbane Airport (BNE), it became the first scheduled nonstop passenger service by a US carrier from mainland-USA to Queensland, Australia.
A route started 94 years ago
In 1928 Charles Kingsford Smith, born in Brisbane, piloted the first transpacific flight between the USA and Australia, flying a Fokker F.VII/3m named the Southern Cross. That flight departed from Oakland, California and landed at Brisbane Airport, with stops in Hawaii and Fiji. United Airlines UA96 took a similar path, without the stops, departing from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is around 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Oakland.
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Photo: Brisbane Airport
Today the Boeing 787-9, registration N29984, touched down at 06:25 and Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff was on hand to greet it. De Graaff said the route Kingsford Smith and his crew of four pioneered will now deliver thousands of tourists to Queensland, but much more quickly.
“That first pioneering journey took 83 hours and 38 minutes, now it’s a 13:45 hour flight. And the historic Southern Cross aircraft sits opposite our international terminal where United Airlines docked this morning.”
Across the road from the terminal is the Kingsford Smith Memorial, where the preserved Southern Cross airplane is on display.
United has Australia well connected
United Airlines (United) will operate the San Francisco – Brisbane service three times weekly. United UA96 will depart on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with the return UA97 leaving Brisbane on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The launch of San Francisco to Brisbane flights means United now has direct connections from the US to Australia’s three largest capital cities. The airline already connects Los Angeles International (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL) and Houston (IAH) to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD).
Marking the occasion, the 250 passengers onboard today’s flight experienced a little bit of Queensland as they left the US. Each passenger got a travel pack that included uniquely Australian snacks, a plush koala bear and a pass for a koala patting experience at a Brisbane koala sanctuary. Before COVID, the US was Queensland’s third largest inbound travel market, with around 236,000 visitors annually. United’s new service will add about 40,000 seats and a projected AU$27 million ($17.3 million) to the state’s visitor economy.
Photo: Brisbane Airport
SVP of global network planning Patrick Quayle said United is the first US airline to add a new transpacific destination to its global network since the start of the pandemic. He added:
“United has a long history in Australia, and with our new partnership with Virgin Australia, now is the ideal time to expand our service and offer additional convenient flight options to our customers on both sides of the Pacific.”
The partnership means Virgin Australia can directly connect United passengers to its Australian domestic network of more than 30 destinations. Brisbane Airport is Australia’s most connected domestic hub, giving the arriving passengers direct flights to 53 locations around the nation, including the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef and North Queensland. It is also the only Queensland airport with scheduled services to the US.
What do you think of this new route, and are you looking forward to flying over the Pacific soon?
IATA/ICAO code: UA/UAL
Airline type: Full service carrier
Stroke(s): Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Guam International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport
Year Founded: 1931
Alliance: Star Alliance
CEO: Scott Kirby
Country: United States