We’ll start to see United’s new business class product in Boeing 777-300ERs that they’ll start to receive at the end of 2016.
Here’s what United is saying:
“We are heavily focussed on creating an amazing international business class” says Mark Krolick, managing director of UA’s Marketing & Product Development arm.
…”We continue to reduce the amount of long-haul first class (although) right now there are no immediate plans to retire it. But there’s not a plan to put first class on any more new deliveries.”
Krolick adds that the airline’s new BusinessFirst “is likely to be the prime cabin in the future.”
United is also looking at adding pajamas in business class.
“We’re doing a nose to tail review of our business class” confirmed Sandra Pineau-Boddison, Senior Vice-President for the airline’s Customers division, “we’re looking at duvet covers and pyjamas and what adds the most value.”
…She added that pyjamas are “luxury items when travelling on business and it’s highly likely they are going to get a lot of consideration.”
American of course will be offering pajamas on their Los Angeles – Sydney route, and Delta has plans to test pajamas on Los Angeles – Shanghai. Both carriers could expand the offering.
Krolick added to the seat discussion the obligatory “We offer a very very good product right now” and I don’t think that’s quite fair.
United currently has two different business class configurations on existing Boeing 777s:
- A legacy Continental seat that’s fully flat, but six-across (2-2-2). Passengers in the window seat do not have access to the aisle – they may have to crawl over the person in the aisle to get up, and the person in the aisle may need to be woken if the person in the window needs to use the lavatory.
- A legacy United seat that’s dorm-style, eight-across, which began rolling out in 2007.
The legacy Continental seat is actually reasonably competitive with Lufthansa and British Airways. It is not competitive with the newer reverse herringbone products of Delta, American, or Air France — and it doesn’t compare to the products of Cathay Pacific or EVA Air which also are similar reverse herringbone seats.
United is on record saying they’re phasing out first class and that story is consistent here — new planes don’t get it, planes that have it lose it when they’re retrofit, but they’re not currently getting rid of it from the remaining fleet that offers the cabin.
United Global First, though, becomes more and more dated. It may not even be meaningfully better than the new seats introduced in business class, though it takes up more real estate. United has let first class die on the vine with a soft product that’s virtually identical to that offered in business.
They still need reliable wireless internet across the fleet. And a new business seat is a long way off, let alone seeing that seat in the existing fleet. And they haven’t even shown us the seat yet. But it’s good to see them on a path to be investing in product.