United Unveils New Domestic First Class Seat: Wider, With an iPad Holder

United debuted their new narrowbody premium (first class) seat which week starts flying on a single Airbus A319 next week, continuing rolling out across the Airbus fleet in the fall (although the retrofit won’t be completed until 2017), and work will begin on ‘many’ 737s and 757s throughout 2016. It appears that while over 200 planes in United’s fleet will get the new seats not every narrowbody will have it. I assume that has to do with projected retirements from the fleet.

The seat appears to add half an inch of width compared to the current Airbus first class seat, at least that’s my read although United claims the cushion width represents a greater increase than that.

The seat’s tray table has a built-in tablet holder to let you keep working while you eat (hopefully therefore not getting frustrated when flight attendants don’t collect your tray in a timely manner, a reason I sort of got used to bad food on American from September through April since it meant I was more productive).

What I really would like to see is a tray table that pushes out as well as pulls in, and that swivels out so that you can get up from the seat even with a meal still on it.

One change is that when you recline the seat, the cushion moves forward which means it doesn’t take up as much legroom from the passenger in the row behind. That’s how American’s first class seats work on many 737s. The Airbus planes that don’t have a/c seat power get reconfigured first (thank goodness!).

Chris McGinnis says,

The most noticeable feature of the new seat is a granite-topped cocktail ledge on the center console. Designers said that the marble is more like a wafer than a block to keep weight down, but is mounted on a sturdy honeycomb-type material for durability.

There’s storage beneath the arm rest, something I’m also used to on several domestic American planes.

There are no video screens, United is moving to streaming video you can access on your own device. I’m fine with that, it saves the airline money and weight (and therefore fuel). I don’t miss using a seatback screen. My laptop’s battery will last over 8 hours even playing video and without darkening the screen. Not everyone chooses a technology solution meant to power themselves through multiple flights. So it’s good they’ll have a/c power for passengers. (There’s no USB power, however.)

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 articulating seats (bottom slides forward as back tilts backward) are a big improvement over the conventional domestic first class seats. Even when fully reclined, the person in front of you is much less in your lap than before.

  2. I’m so glad seat back screens are going! On overnights am sick to the back teeth of selfish people banging on the touchscreen whole in trying to sleep. Whoever thought those were a good idea on airplanes clearly never took an overnight flight!

  3. First the termination of Smisek, then a much nicer F seat with power outlets. This is change that I’m gonna like!!

    However I disagree about the IFE via wifi. UA’s current system is horrible, basically worthless IME as it can take many minutes just to logon much less to get a decent connection. If UA doesn’t fix this system it will put them at a severe disadvantage to others like VX which already have working systems.

  4. @James Alexander,

    OMG! No doubt. I was going to say the exact same thing. Can’t wait for those effing things to disappear.

  5. There goes United stumbling to stay last. Could they be any more ugly? The pictures you show a significant;t different than in the video. Your pictures show matronly navy in the video they look charcoal. Anything would be an improvement so I guess we should be happy for what ever scrapes are thrown our way. No USB Ports? No in flight entertainment – I’m assuming the iPads we have to supply? And then depend on there lousy wifi? Or more to the point pre load our own entertainment before we leave.

    Meh. So obviously United is trying to appeal to the above 50 white business man who lets his wife dress him? That’s their target demographic? I guess that’s all that’s left when you consider everyone else is flying Virgin or Delta or jet Blue.

  6. I am seeing 737-800 seat maps being reduced to 2 rows of FC starting this fall (8 seats)… even on heavy “elite” routes such as ORD-IAH. I am wondering if there is a trade-off of reducing capacity with the retrofit.

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