United Airlines is bringing back Los Angeles – Sydney service starting September 10, three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It’s part of larger growth in their schedule that includes a return of Chicago – Hong Kong and starting up Chicago – Tel Aviv.
But there’s something really interesting about the Los Angeles – Sydney service. They’re apparently doing it primarily for cargo. Australia has some of the most stringent entry requirements in the world. They’re not permitting standard business or tourism visitors at all (such as with a clean test for COVID-19). Even their own residents returning to the country have to go into 14-day quarantine at government-designated hotels.
Despite such onerous restrictions Australia has a limited new outbreak in Victoria after quarantine guards had sex with the passengers they were watching after, caught the virus themselves, went home and spread it. (Qantas flight attendants are replacing the contract guards.) The country has gone from daily cases of 7-20 up to 180 or so per day.
While there’s only a limited set of people who can travel to Australia currently, there’s going to be a government-imposed cap of 50 passengers per flight, as the beneficent Brian Sumers reports.
Recently, @united announced some flights to Australia and China would resume. Do not mistake these for normal flights. As per this internal note, Sydney-bound flights are capped at 50(!) passengers. On the bright side, cargo is doing OK. pic.twitter.com/vyZ3Ugx4PS
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) July 8, 2020
That’s not very many passengers on a Boeing 787-9 which seats over 250 people. Fortunately for the airline, their own crew working the flight don’t count against this total. Although I’d suggest that on an aircraft with 48 business class seats, upgrades shouldn’t be very hard to come by.
The irony here is that United was the first of the large U.S. airlines, and the most vociferous, arguing against any form of social distancing on aircraft. Now it’s being imposed on them by the Australian government.