Reveal: United’s New Narrowbody Lie Flat Business Class Seats

Details of the new United Airlines lie flat business class seat for narrowbody Airbus A321XLR and a subset of the airline’s new Boeing 737-10 aircraft have been revealed. notices the patent for United’s new narrowbody business class lie flat seat, first discussed by then-airline President Scott Kirby in 2018 and that last year was said would ‘stun the competition’.

The sine qua non of United’s current long haul Polaris business class seat is that they were able to achieve lie flat seats with direct aisle access without dedicating more space to each passenger. It’s an efficient, dense seating format that. The same design focus is being applied to these narrowbody seats, which were drawn by the same firm, Acumen, that developed the concept for Polaris seats.

Here, there’s a herringbone arrangement with passengers seated at a 49 degree angle, away from the window. And to pack in as many seats as possible, the patented seat creates an area that is shared between passengers – one passenger gets shoulder space, while the passenger beside them gets lower arm space – all in the name of cabin density.

It has been recognized that in an arrangement in which the seating elements are orientated at an acute angle to the longitudinal direction, some space can be shared between seated passengers in adjacent seat units to achieve a relatively high PAX density…

In the space-sharing region, the upper part of the screen may overhang the seat pan of the first seat unit, when the seat units are in the seating configuration. Such an arrangement may provide shoulder space for the second seating unit, without substantially impacting on the useable space for the passenger in the first seat unit (because that overhang may be above the arm space of the passenger in the first seat unit). The lower part of the screen preferably does not overhang the seat pan of the first seat unit when the seat units are in the seating configuration.

In the drawn design there are 14 rows of seats, which is a large business class cabin but in line with United’s premium strategy and something they can accomplish by giving less space per passenger in a design that is somewhat similar to American’s new Airbus A321XLR layout and to JetBlue’s new business class. United’s drawing does not show seats with doors, but those can be added. speculates that these seats will be made by Safran, which manufactured the current Polaris widebody business class seat. This month we should also see the unveiling of the new Polaris 2.0 soft product including new bedding, and soon thereafter a reveal of United’s new long haul business class seats with doors.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. American and Delta are both supposed to reveal their domestic narrowbody premium configurations in the next few months.
    Perhaps the only thing that is stunning will be that United’s product isn’t as advanced and passenger friendly as UA thinks it is.

  2. @ Gary — What Woofie said. The old VS and NZ seats are some of the absolute worst in the world. WTH is United thinking here?

  3. These are awful. they should just mimic the current UA 757-200 2 and 2 or COPA 737 MAX 2 and 2 . Way more privacy even if its 20 seats instead of 28. Everyone avoids NZ and Virgin Atlantic planes that have this configuration. United is playing F around and Find Out

  4. Oh boy! Now instead of looking out the window at the scenery I can look at the aisle, and feel all disoriented by the angle relative to movement. Maybe this was designed by a five year old who showed up on take your kid to work day? I jest of course. No five year old I’ve ever met is this dumb.

  5. I dunno, hard to get too excited or worked up about what looks like a geometry class homework submission (though commenters are managing!). I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

    Maybe the overlap will translate into magical extra width. And hey, more density means more upgrades or maybe a more reasonable outright cash price. If I can pay a reasonable sum for J, any J, and be done with it, I’m there.

    Would think that doors would be a big sell, as they would certainly mitigate the “staring into the aisle” aspect.

  6. WOOF. These are very “slim fit” style. What about people with wide waists or better yet, wide shoulder frames? I’m 6 foot 8 and my feet/shins would definitely hang out in the aisle. Oh, but add a door and take away ANOTHER few precious inches. Can’t even lay down in the fetal position in these. Glad AA seems to be doing better with their XLR’s.

  7. Herringbone and rear-facing seat arrangements are my idea of seat arrangements best avoided by me.

    And will the business class densification be used as an excuse to cut back on cabin baggage allowance?

  8. When the FA soup nazis come around and tell me to lower my window shade (one of my pet peeves with UA btw), how I am I going to do that in these seats?

  9. Holy moly, why not stick with what works — Copa seems to have it right. I’ve flown in their lie-flat J product 3 times now, and my god, I wish wish wish other airlines would take notice.

  10. Who at UA had this particular brainfart?
    It worked so well for AirNewZealand that savvy travellers avoided aircraft fitted out with the coffin/sardine can configuration. Somewhat belatedly they are getting rid of these absurd seats in favor of more conventional models.
    All at some considerable cost, which could have been avoided if they had, at a minimum, run focus groups of passengers who would have given then a big thumbs down.
    Crazy to see history repeat itself at United; the person who signed off on this should be booted out the door (of course they won’t…..).

  11. Gad, all this fuss and opinions about something you can’t really envision from the simplistic drawing. Opinions at this point are quite meaningless.
    Anytime I can stretch out instead of sitting up on a flight is a good experience.

  12. Interesting they will have them on 737-10’s. Those will be used in premium transcon flight as the 757’s are now, maybe to some Latin American destinations and other trancon key routes like LAXBOS, but beyond that, where will the -10’s have them.

    Transatlantic will have A321XLR’s.

    Also interesting that the A321neos will not. I wonder how these fleet deployments will pan out.

  13. I’m sure this was thought out & Kirby has a spreadsheet showing what this will add to profit/passenger. @ Tim Dunn: advanced is cramming them in. How customers react is not much considered. I am sure UA will be surprised, however by the reaction. “Customers. . .what?…the customers?”

  14. Not what is going on the A321XLR(at least not all of them. Also not all the 737max’s.

    UA has a different configuration coming from a different supplier without the armrest/upper body space change. Also less seats per aircraft.

    This might be for a high Business Class config.

  15. Terrible design. Change orientation to face the window and maybe that will be more pallet-able.
    These designers probably never fly themselves

  16. This layout is pretty much economy at three times the price.

    And is not unlike the disgusting situation I found myself in recently on a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.787.

    The center seats and starboard seats were angled at each other leaving me with a view I could not unsee of shoe soles and worse across a very narrow aisle.

    And, of course, with my luck the pig in the center aisle across from me immediately took off his shoes and socks, forcing me to spend eight hours from MIA to LHR looking at the bottoms of his stinking bare feet.

    This nightmare scene can be slightly improved by choosing a port side seat. However, you cannot avoid the fact that these seats are incredibly narrow and claustrophobic with no doors, no panels, no privacy of any kind.

    Seriously, economy gives you the same privacy without the feet.

    Around the same time, I flew Upper Class in their new A330 neo. Different world, but there are very few of those in the air.

    Bottom line: buyer, beware! And meanwhile Sir Richard should have his knighthood hood taken away.

Comments are closed.