United ends 13-year absence in New Zealand

United flight UA971 arrives at Auckland. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)
United flight UA971 arrives at Auckland. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)

United has returned to New Zealand for the first time in more than a decade with the arrival of flight UA917 at Auckland Airport on Sunday morning.

The San Francisco-Auckland service, operated by Boeing 787-8 N27908, landed in Auckland just before 0645 local time after a 12 and a half hour journey from Northern California.

The aircraft was on the ground for about seven hours before taking off as the reciprocal UA916 back to San Francisco at about 1400.

United's return to New Zealand on the SFO-AKL route featured some celebrations in the terminal. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)
Celebrations in the terminal. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)

The airline has said previously the new service would initially operate three times a week with Boeing 787-8s before increasing to daily from October, with the larger 787-9 Dreamliner.

It is the second new service to arrive at Auckland Airport in a week, following American Airlines’ inaugural Los Angeles-Auckland flight on Saturday, June 25.

United, which is flying to Auckland in partnership with fellow Star Alliance member Air New Zealand as part of a joint-venture revenue-sharing agreement, last served New Zealand in March 2003.

“Our customers wanted new ways to access New Zealand and destinations beyond and our relationship with Air New Zealand allows customers to plan seamless travel throughout the South Pacific,” United vice chairman and chief revenue officer Jim Compton said in a statement.

On this side of the Tasman, United flies from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as from Melbourne to Los Angeles. All its Australian services were flown with Boeing 787 equipment.

United flight UA971 arrives at Auckland. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)
United back in New Zealand in 2016. (Auckland Airport/Facebook)
United Airlines last flight to Auckland, seen here, was in 2003. (Mike Millet)
The last time United was seen in New Zealand in 2003. (Mike Millet)


  1. Damon says

    Awesome! Although, there are quite a few airlines starting operations to Auckland. This may not be good for United (financially speaking).

  2. franz chong says

    LAX-AKL-MEL would be nice.I remember the days in the late nineties where NZ used to code share on the UA 744’S on these sectors.Although they won’t go back to that era anytime soon.It’s a great memory to have when the best you can get these days ON THE TASMAN for the most part with some exceptions is the A320.

  3. says

    I would regularly fly 747s MEL-AKL-LAX and so looked forward to time at the Koru club in AKL before the long trans-Pacific flight. Was it UA839, in those days?

    Then it became via Syd, and another great Koru lounge, also via 747, then 777, and now 787 direct from MEL.

  4. franz chong says

    It was UA 842 that went MEL-AKL-LAX.I only wish someone told me about how NZ codeshared that flight on my second trip to New Zealand in 1998 with the 747-400.I ended up on the NZ124 on a 767-300 by default after Qantas stuffed my schedules about.From memory and I am from Adelaide I would have had to leave Adelaide on the Ansett flight at 10:05am to link up with that UA plane.I ended up instead choosing the afternoon flight leaving at 4:15pm to connect to the NZ plane from Melbourne.Not complaining but it would have been fun flying on a US CARRIER ON THAT SECTOR.