United Actually Removing Seats from Planes to Add Premium Economy, More Business Class

United’s roll out of Polaris business class seats continues slowly apace, with work on some Boeing 777s which will apparently be the only ones getting retrofits now without premium economy, future retrofits will include premium economy and there’s not been a timetable announced. United tells me there are two Boeing 767s in Hong Kong for retrofit currently, with the next one scheduled to go in there in June.

United Polaris Business Class Seat, Boeing 777-300ER

Meanwhile we’ve just learned United’s seating plans for its new Boeing 787-10s. They have 14 on order and are expected to take delivery of 3 this year.

The 787-10s will feature 310 seats:

  • 48 business class
  • 21 premium economy
  • 45 extra legroom ‘economy plus’ coach
  • 208 economy

In terms of percentage of the overall cabin business shrinks slightly compared to United’s 777s and 767s to 14% — still considered premium heavy. They do this because Polaris is a highly efficient seat in terms of use of space. Recall that they are able to fit the same number of seats in the same space as their current 2-2-2 B/E Aerospace Diamond offering while providing every passenger with direct aisle access.

United has also updated seat maps for Boeing 767-300ER, Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300ER planes that show the configurations including premium economy.

  • The 767s will have 22 premium economy seats (2-2-2 like old domestic first class).

  • Both the 777-200s and 777-300ERs will have 24 premium economy seats (2-4-2, I don’t think I’d much want the middle-of-middles)

The really good news is that on the 767s premium economy comes out of coach, and business class gros from 30 to 44 seats — overall the plane will drop from 214 seats down to 167 according to Flight Global.

United will fly fewer seats on their Boeing 777-200s — dropping from 292 to 276 — and on their Boeing 777-300ERs down from 366 seats to 350.

United Boeing 777-300ER Economy

Crucially there’s still no plan to update United’s Boeing 787s with either new Polaris business class seats or a premium economy cabin.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. The end of international first class really just means that international business class is the new international first class and premium economy is the new international business class. These are huge negative changes; expect to see premium economy being treated as a separate class between economy and business for complimentary elite upgrades and the price of premium economy creeping up towards business class and business towards the price of first. The spin is that these are all new and exciting changes for the consumer but the truth is that these are huge devaluations that are gradually incoming.

  2. More premium seats are a plus. I hope that 763 config materializes.
    I do hope they treats elite well in terms of upgrades.

  3. Gary, with the trend towards MORE seats being crammed into these planes, what’s the rationale for this configuration with less seats? Thanks.

  4. If United could rollout these planes, I’d switch from Delta since Delta stupidly downsized its business-class and went to a 2-4-2 configuration in premium-economy on 777s and the A350.

  5. More premium seats? The United flight attendants don’t want to serve the Polaris perks on the current layout. Adding more premium seats will really make them unhappy.

  6. @Ray That doesn’t sound so bad, because airlines are making less money out of First than Business, while loyalty members will need less points for top cabin redemptions than before (putting aside for now the devaluations made in the programs themselves). What we *don’t* want is them skimping out on the amenities and passenger service… Passengers are spending extra on this for a premium experience, after all.

  7. Any idea on cost? And what seats will look like? Lie-flat? Regular seats with just lots more room (more than Economy +)? Thanks

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