United Airlines' direct flights from Sydney to Houston take off

United Airlines' non-stop flights from Houston to Sydney commence this Thursday.

The inaugural flight, UA 101, departs Houston at 8pm local time (1pm Friday, AEDT) on 18 January and arrives in Sydney on Saturday January 20 at 6.30am, taking 17.5 hours to cover the 13,850-kilometre flight.

It will be the world's fourth longest flight route and the longest route every flown by a US airline.

The flight back from Sydney will depart on Saturday, January 20 at 11.50am, arriving in Houston at 10.35am am the same day.

The route will be serviced by the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

To celebrate the new route, United launched a nationwide search to find Australians bearing the name Houston (as either a first or last name) to travel on the first flight from Sydney.

Five Houstons and their guests will be flying to the city on United's inaugural return flight to Houston to experience its "Southern-style hospitality, Texan BBQ, cowboys and cowgirls, and the NASA space station".

In a reciprocal arrangement, five US residents named Sydney will get to experience Australian hospitality courtesy of United, flying on the first Dreamliner from Houston to Australia.

United's second "ultra-long haul" flight – the first flying direct from Los Angeles to Singapore – will be the only non-stop service between Australia and Houston. They also operate services from Sydney to its west coast hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and from Melbourne to Los Angeles.

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Qantas currently operates a non-stop route to Texas from Australia; the Dallas to Sydney route, which covers a distance of 13,804 kilometres and was the longest route in the world until last year when it was surpassed by new non-stop Middle-Eastern flights to New Zealand.

"We are looking forward to visiting Sydney and welcoming our Australian visitors with open arms to Texas," said Houston mayor Sylvester Turner.

Scott Kirby, president of United Airlines said: "This new route will serve more than 70 cities across North America making the one-stop service to Sydney faster and more convenient than ever before."

Passengers will be able to take advantage of United's business class seats, which include 48 lie-flat beds. The Dreamliner service also includes 63 Economy Plus seats, which offer additional leg room and increased personal space, and 141 Economy seats.

From Houston, United offers nearly 500 daily flights to more than 170 destinations around the world. Of particular interest to Australian travellers, Houston serves as United's gateway to Latin America, flying into 51 destinations across Latin America and the Caribbean non-stop.

The Houston hub has recently seen an injection of $US277 million ($343 million), with roomier gate areas, the latest technology and chef-inspired dining experiences.

The world's longest flight routes (by distance)

  1. Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 14,529km
  2. Dubai-Auckland, Emirates, 14,200km
  3. Los Angeles-Singapore, United Airlines, 14,114km
  4. Sydney-Houston, United Airlines, 13,850km
  5. Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 13,804km
  6. San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 13,592km
  7. Atlanta-Johannesburg, Delta, 13,581km
  8. Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles, Etihad, 13,502km
  9. Dubai-Los Angeles, Emirates, 13,420km
  10. Jeddah-Los Angeles, Saudia, 13,409km

See also: Qantas plan non-stop flights to New York and London

See also: Tips on how to survive long-haul flights

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