United Airlines Adds Flights to Australia, New Zealand

United is expanding its service Down Under with new routes, bigger planes and more flights.
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Travelers wanting to visit Australia or New Zealand will soon have a lot more ways to get there.

United Airlines is drastically expanding its reach in the South Pacific. The airline announced it's adding new nonstop destinations and routes, coupled with more flights and bigger planes to other locations in the region.

All of the flights are expected to be on aircraft equipped with lie-flat Polaris business class seats and Premium Plus cabins.

Pending government approval, all of the new service is slated to begin by December 2023, just in time for peak travel season to these Southern Hemisphere destinations.

One of the highlights of United’s largest-ever expansion into the region is a new nonstop flight from San Francisco to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The service will give U.S. flyers a direct link to New Zealand’s South Island, home to spectacular hiking, coastlines and fjords, plus the world-famous Marlborough wine region.

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Expanded United flights to Australia and New Zealand

By peak season, United will operate a total of 66 weekly flights between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand, the Chicago-based carrier said in a statement. That’s a 40% spike over last winter.

More broadly, this scaling-up of its long-haul international service tracks with the type of trips travelers seem to have an appetite for in 2023.

“Long-haul international is moving into the lead over domestic,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said during the airline’s quarterly earnings call in April.

Here’s a rundown of the changes United is planning for the upcoming peak travel season to the South Pacific.

Route

Changes

Changes begin

Aircraft

San Francisco to Christchurch, NZ

New service to New Zealand’s South Island.

Dec. 1 (3x weekly).

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Los Angeles to Auckland

More flights.

Oct. 28 (4x weekly).

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Los Angeles to Brisbane

New service.

Nov. 29 (3x weekly).

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

San Francisco to Brisbane

More flights.

Oct. 28 (daily).

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

San Francisco to Sydney

More flights.

Oct. 28 (2x daily).

Boeing 777-300ER.

San Francisco to Melbourne

Bigger planes.

Oct. 28 (1 daily round trip).

Boeing 777-300ER.

Los Angeles to Melbourne

Bigger planes.

Oct. 28 (1 daily round trip).

Boeing 777-300ER.

Additionally, United leaders told investors that all of the airline’s international wide-body aircraft — including the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner involved in South Pacific flights — should be equipped with its Polaris business and Premium Plus (premium economy) cabins by this summer.

These cabins may present flyers with intriguing options for a big-ticket award flight redemption.

Cost of flights to Australia and New Zealand

Overall, long-haul flights to Oceania — as well as Asia — are in high demand as many countries in those regions have fully reopened. And that means flights are expensive.

Round-trip deals to Australia and New Zealand are averaging $1,687 — up 13% from last year and up 33% from 2019, according to data from the travel booking platform Hopper.

Because of the high costs, these long-haul flights can be a great opportunity to redeem airline miles or credit card rewards, especially if you’re hoping to splurge for a lie-flat seat.

United flights to South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand, located on South Island, is a new destination for United.

The flight departs San Francisco at 11:30 p.m. and arrives in Christchurch at 10:35 a.m two “days” later. For the return flight, passengers leave at 2:15 p.m. local time and arrive back in the U.S. at 6:20 a.m. that same day.

We found economy tickets for the inaugural trip priced at $2,430 round-trip. For some added comfort, a seat in United’s Premium Plus cabin was $7,439 round-trip in our search. Prefer lie-flat seats in Polaris business? That could cost nearly $12,000.

On the other hand, a Polaris ticket for this same itinerary goes for 571,700 miles. That's a redemption rate of just over 2 cents per mile, which is more than NerdWallet’s baseline valuation of MileagePlus miles at 1.2 cents each.

How United credit cards can help

If you’re a United loyalist or planning a major trip aboard the airline in the near future, a number of United credit cards can help you enhance your flying experience and maximize your rewards earnings.

On top of that, some United-affiliated cards and other travel credit cards offer sizable welcome bonuses that could help you toward a major redemption like a flight to Oceania.

(Top photo courtesy of United Airlines)


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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