United Airlines' inaugural flight from Melbourne to San Francisco takes off on Thursday morning, giving Australians greater choice when flying to North America than ever before.
Following Qantas' lead, who re-introduced the route in late 2018, United will fly three times a week to San Francisco. It's the fifth non-stop flight between Australia and the US for the airline, and United's second from Melbourne, joining direct flights to Los Angeles.
Flight UA61 will give travellers the option of an early morning arrival into San Francisco, departing Melbourne at 10.30am and arriving at 6.40am (local time) the same day. Qantas' service departs at night and arrives in the early evening.
United will be using Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 on the route, with 48 lie-flat beds in business, 116 economy seats and 88 extra-legroom seats in "Economy Plus".
In the business class cabin, the "Polaris" seats will be fitted out with bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue and an amenity kit from Sunday Riley, with slippers and pyjamas available to passengers on flights longer than 12 hours.
Travellers in business will enjoy a five-course meal which, if they enjoy, can replicate at home with United's ambitious cookbook. They'll also be treated to their famous dessert trolley which includes the mixings for ice cream sundaes, with seven different toppings to choose from, served by your seat. On-demand mid-flight snacks are available throughout the flight and include everything from fruit to mac and cheese with lobster.
The new route is part of an international network expansion for United Airlines from its hub at San Francisco International Airport. It also offers a non-stop services to Houston and Los Angeles from the three eastern capitals.
Julie Reid, United's director for Australia and New Zealand, said Australia is a strong international market for the airline. "We know Australians love San Francisco and are proud we can now deliver Melbournians there in style."
Joe D'Alessandro, President and CEO of San Francisco Travel said, "There are many synergies between Melbourne and San Francisco and this new direct United Airlines route will only strengthen that connection and further encourage travel between the two cities.
"San Francisco's diverse range of arts and culture, cuisine, sports and nightlife make San Francisco the ultimate holiday destination for Melburnians," he added.
The service will run three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The return leg will be an overnight flight departing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10.45pm and arriving in Melbourne two days later after crossing the dateline at 9.40am.
Returning business class passengers with United and Star Alliance can take advantage of the new Polaris lounge, recently voted best business class lounge at the World Airline Awards. The lounge features 19 different styles of seats, daybeds, shower suites, and a clothes steaming service. Dining includes the usual buffet as well as an al la carte menu in their private dining room, which seats 40 people.
Australian passengers can now access non-stop flights to Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco, with Qantas launching non-stop flights to Chicago in April 2020. Qantas also plans to introduce non-stop flights to New York if aircraft technology allows.
Passengers have the choice of three American airlines - Delta, American and United - and two Australian, with Virgin Australia also flying to Los Angeles daily.
Air Canada also increased their services to Vancouver, now operating three times a week from Melbourne and daily from Brisbane and Sydney.
Canadian's national carrier introduced the popular route from Melbourne primarily through their busy ski season, and then started flying year round in June 2018.
Two of the routes to the US are among the world's longest flights, with Qantas' direct route to Dallas from Sydney clocking in at 15 hours and 15 minutes.
United started flying to Houston from Sydney in 2018, which has a total time in the air of 15 hours and 35 minutes.
The writer travelled as a guest of United Airlines.