Leaked Seat Maps Show United’s 787s Are Getting A Scott Kirby Retrofit

United has been slow to roll out their Polaris business class seats. Those seats were never close to industry leading. The innovation was providing a fully flat seat with direct aisle access, configured not to take up more space per passenger than the old business seat.

In other words, United was behind American and Delta in business class even as they were introducing the new seat. However it was set to take years to actually put in place. As other airlines continue to spruce up business class, for instance more carriers offer suites with doors, the new Polaris seat falls further behind – and that’s before accounting for all of the cuts to business class soft product.

United’s Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 fleet – the latter which flies United’s longest flights to places like Sydney, Singapore, and Capetown – have still had the old Diamond 2-2-2 seats that most passengers with a choice avoid.

We finally have a look into United’s retrofit plans for these aircraft, via LA Flyer. This is a generally credible source, but not official, and my only skepticism is that I have a hard time imagining United offering so few lavatories to coach passengers on long haul flights as this plan implies.

Still, with airline President Scott Kirby set to become CEO in May the retrofit details should come as little surprise.

Seth Miller examines the details and points out as the airline updates the business class seats and adds premium economy, that United is:

  • Squeezing economy
  • Reducing Economy Plus
  • Tightening up the lavatory situation

787-8s Lose Business Class Seats, Coach Legroom, and Bathrooms

United’s 787-8s will drop business class from 36 to 28 seats. There will be 21 premium economy seats. And they’re added 11 coach seats even as they also add Premium Economy, while dropping the number of economy plus seats in half. So much for Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella’s pitch that the airline was committed to more economy plus seats to reward elite frequent flyers.

Miller also suggests that “pitch will be reduced in the rear section of the plane.”

Meanwhile United is dropping the mid-cabin lavatories on the 787-8s in coach, and dropping the number of business class lavatories by one as well. Premium economy passengers will be walking all the way to the back of coach.

Ultra Long Range 787-9s Lose A Lot of Economy Plus

The 787-9s will keep the same 48 business class seats while United adds 3 rows of premium economy. Economy Plus drops in half from 88 seats down to 42, while regular economy bumps up by 30 seats. United is adding premium economy to the aircraft, which takes up more room, yet they still manage to increase total seating on plane. They’re adding 24 seats to the plane even though the new business seat doesn’t take up more room.

As part of this densification, United is eliminating the rear lavatories on the 787-9s.

This was all in the works long before Kirby got the nod as the airline’s next CEO. He’s been calling the shots for some time. The results are as expected.

That said, these seat maps haven’t been released officially by United – hopefully what comes out of the MRO will at least reconsider the lavatory issue, since a ratio of a single lavatory for more than one hundred passengers in back flying long haul seems like more pain than even a Scott Kirby spreadsheet would sign off on.

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. It is confirmed that the latest leaked seat map is wrong for the 787-8. There will be 4 Y lavs, including two lavs at 3L/R like the 787-9 map. If you look closely, you can see the blue sinks that the orange bars (usually cart stowage) appear to cover up.

    These maps leaked for the first time in the summer, and what was circulated at that time was indeed the correct lavatory configuration. I have no idea why this doctored version is making the rounds.

  2. Ha ha ha! Where are all of those United diehards who said “Let’s give Scott Kirby a chance” when he jumped over?

    That Scott Kirby Express train to disaster-ville is never late.

    The US Air Management Cancer continues to spread without fail.

  3. Flew UA sfo-sin last year. Plane took off with just one working lavatory in Economy. (Biz labs off limits.)

    1 hour prior to landing, announcement to let us know they were sorry. $100 voucher!

  4. @RF +1. It’s tough to understand how the board at United could be so unfathomably stupid as to promote this guy rather than fire him.

  5. Scotch Kirby, the gift that keeps on taking; all without an immunization shot available. Every United flyer is at his mercy, unless you do what I did a month ago….as having more than 600K miles with United I moved to Delta. What a HUGE improvement!

  6. There will be a special non working miniature 737 Max toilet in hell for Kirby and Parker to spend eternity in.

  7. @MC you mean where i explicitly say they aren’t official, and that there are reasons to be skeptical (the lavatory situation)? put another way, don’t you think it’s a good idea to read what’s written before commenting critically?

  8. So the coach used to have 1 lav for every 30 people and reducing lavs means very long lines on the isles on long hauls and frequent accidents by travellers.
    The issue is US economics. Any person that bankrupt a company will get a better job than before.
    People should jump the ship from United.

  9. @RF

    > Wow looks terrible. Scott
    > Kirby ruins airlines. Get
    > him out.

    UA’s board loves Kirby. Not because he’s in the ‘cares about pax’ game… Kirby is in the ‘maximize shareholder value’ game.

    And UA’s numbers have been great under Kirby.

    Never mind tone deaf stuff like taking away bonuses to make it a company raffle instead, saying stupid stuff like’nobody with a choice flies LCC over United’, etc.

    I wish Delta would fly more out of DEN.


  10. For my next act we will reduce the mini bottles of booze by 50%. The numbers tell us this decision will reduce the number of trips to take a leak which allows us to reduce the number of lavs.
    Dug will be proud of me.

  11. “a ratio of a single lavatory for more than one hundred passengers in back flying long haul”

    Gary, I think you missed the tiny type on the closet just before exit 3R:

    “Storage for Bedpans Only”

  12. And yet, so far, UA does not seem to be trying to be price competitive with the other majors, at least for TATL in business class. I guess if they are still filling up their planes, the combination of higher prices, fewer upgrades and lower quality must be working. But looking back at 2019, I would be re-qualifying for 1K had I not purchased significantly cheaper TATL business class on BA for two work trips, saving about $7K. Instead I will be plat next year. Considering that I have 3 GPUs left over and expiring, I think that will be fine.

  13. The 788 is missing Y lavs, there are actually two more than shown on the diagram. The 788 has a total of 6 lavs.

  14. People need to vote with their wallets. I stopped flying UA 5 years ago and don’t plan to go back despite being near their IAD hub

  15. “United was behind American and Delta in business class even as they were introducing the new seat.”
    Not sure what delta crack pipe you’ve been hitting behind that “door” that only goes up to your shin, but once again your bias is showing. It’s one of the many reasons why no one takes you seriously anymore.

  16. Just received my 1K 2020 kit. Includes a Star Wars themed catheter and five bags; replaces the drink vouchers.

  17. VX_Flier: It’s not the “Us Air Management Cancer” but rather the Bill Franke inspired America West cancer that’s spreading. US Airways was the first airline inflicted with this malignancy. I knew United was gonna be dumbed down the minute his employment there was announced.

  18. Scott Kirby may be brilliant when it comes to market strategy but he is a cold hearted, self serving CEO-Wannabe.
    I’ve seen internal memos from his management team instructing them to ignore employee complaints.
    I’ve watch how he single handedly dismantled Polaris amenities. He insists on changing up service every few months but he won’t change up the snacks and menu. It’s a revolving menu that, if you fly like I do, you will see the same choices on every flight.

    He treats the employees as if they do not deserve to be heard. What was that God-awful promotion he planned? He has no idea how to be a people person unless he is at a dinner party attempting to schmooze clients.

    Treat your employees with respect. Stop hoarding profits in order to cut the employee bonuses and profit sharing. A happy employee translates into happy customers. He should be ashamed of himself but he’s not. As long as his pockets are lined it doesn’t matter.

    Let’s look at the lavatory sizes. If you are a person “of size”, I would say you have a chance at a lawsuit The lavatories are torture to use.

    There are not enough crew onboard either. I’m tired of waiting for an hour for a drink. Oh don’t get me wrong. These men and women do a bang up job with the tools they are (or are not) given. It’s simply unbelievable at the work they deal with but are seeing staffing reductions on a monthly basis.

    Kirby doesn’t have his finger on the pulse. He will drag this airline down even further.

    He has taken out lavs, Reduced first class seating and amenities and to add to his over all lack of caring, he disrespects the UA employees with cuts and unrealistic work schedules. I hear he is getting rid of hotel overnights as well.

    Kirby divorced his Paradise Valley Councilwoman wife and traded her in for his younger yoga teacher. He isn’t a good person. He isn’t pro employee or pro frequent flyers.

    Shame on him. They need to sway Gordon Bethune to return. He turned Continental Airlines around, and had the respect of his employees and flyers.

    Scott Kirby can’t measure up. I spoke to employees on a trip to Beijing. They indicate he cut staffing, cut profit sharing, has disregard for their union and has brought the morale down to a premerger, Glen Tilton/Frank Lorenzo era. He has ordered firing of multiple employees who are at the top tier of the pay scale. Seems American Airlines isn’t the only airline to fire older employees.

    Bring back the amenities, get rid of the awful stench they call Polaris scent (if I have to wear that disgusting scent again after I wipe my hands on the hand towels in First Class, I will go ballistic!)

    Get your shit together, Scott Kirby.
    Take care of those who take care of your airline. Your customers and employees. Your wife might have to go without a few diamond trinkets but you will be a hero.

  19. United 787 airplanes are the worst. I flew economy class to Singapore and the aisles are so narrow that flight carts constantly struck me during the 17 hour flight. The seats are so narrow that an average size man will overhang the seats no matter how you sit. Avoid United flights on the 787 at all costs.

  20. @Gary
    Oh, I read your entire post.
    You make that one little disclaimer at the top of the article the proceed to write the rest as of this is factual and confirmed. “…WILL drop from 36 to 28 seats…” “ Meanwhile United IS dropping the mid-cabin lavatories on the 787-8s in coach…” United has announced no such thing!
    You are writing as if these things are actually happening thinking your weak attempt of a disclaimer “…but not official,” CYA while purposely misleading your readers.
    But hey, you got the comments of UA bashing and the clicks you wanted and that’s what matters.
    If UA releases a seat map that confirms everything you have speculated with such confidence, then I’ll take it all back.

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