United Killing (Our) First Class Flight to Australia

Aug 27, 2015

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We don’t have many big premium cabin flights on the books right now…in fact, we just have one, our big family trip to Australia and New Zealand planned for the spring of next year.  That puts roughly two years between big fancy premium cabin international trips for our family, which I think is a pretty good spacing.  It is certainly more frequent than would ever be possible without miles and points, but it is enough time between trips to certainly get excited again not just for the destination, but for the process of getting there.

United’s Global First is not nearly as over-the-top as the first class products offered by Etihad, Singapore, Cathay, (almost anyone else) etc. but since I haven’t flown enough international first class to be too spoiled, I don’t care.  I need three (or four) seats on the same plane for my family, and I want the most direct routing possible, so I’m not chasing specific fancy aircraft products.  I’m chasing a comfier than coach way to get us halfway across the globe, and I had booked that from Los Angeles to Sydney using United miles in United Global First on their 777-200 aircraft.

That aircraft has three cabins – economy, business class, and first class.  The business class is quite large with five rows of seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.  The first class cabin has just eight total seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.  While first class is totally unnecessary for our purposes, it was an extra special treat we were looking forward to since it was just a 10,000 mile per person surcharge over business class.  We were already booked in business class coming back since that is what was available, and by that point in the trip I’m sure we will be zonked anyway.


However, yesterday I noticed that it seems United is doing away with first class to/from Australia effective pretty much on the day of our trip.  Ha ha ha ha!  I mean, of course it is virtually exactly on the day of our trip, as least as the plan reportedly currently stands.

They will be switching the service via Los Angeles from the 777-200 that we are booked on in favor of the Dreamliner, specifically the 787-9 that has 48 total business class seats (which is a large number given the aircraft size), but there is no first class cabin.  This means that if all of this plays out the way it looks like it may, we will lose our first class seats to Australia, presumably in favor of business class seats on the Dreamliner…and so will everyone else booked in first class United to Australia after some point this spring.  Currently you are unable to make first class reservations to Australia on United beginning March 25, 2016.

We've always been happy in United BusinessFirst
We’ve always been happy in United BusinessFirst

I find it interesting that United is doing away with first class to Australia, but while I will be a tiny bit sad to lose our first class seats since I probably will never get them again, I have always found their business class seats to be totally fine for my purposes…which is to be able to lay down and sleep on long haul flights.  In truth, it probably will work to our ultimate advantage because we will likely need to add a lap child to the reservation and that will be cheaper in business class than first class since the 10% surcharge is based on paid fares.

You can read more about the changes coming by following @airlineroute or the reading Australian Business Traveler.





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