United A321XLRs Getting New Polaris Seats, Premium Plus

United A321XLRs Getting New Polaris Seats, Premium Plus

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In December 2019, United Airlines placed an order for 50 A321XLRs, which is Airbus’ new ultra long range and fuel efficient evolution of the A321. The plane is expected to enter service in 2024, though United will likely only start to take delivery of the plane in 2025 and beyond, so we still have a bit of a wait.

I recently provided an update on American Airlines’ new business class plans (for both wide bodies and the A321XLR), so in this post I wanted to take an updated look at what we should expect from United Airlines’ A321XLRs.

What to expect from United’s A321XLR cabins

Before we talk about cabins, let’s talk about United’s route plans for A321XLRs:

  • United will primarily fly A321XLRs across the North Atlantic and to Latin America, so you can expect the planes to largely be on “long and thin” routes, like Newark to Bogota and Edinburgh
  • United will not only use A321XLRs to replace Boeing 757-200s, but also to expand to some markets where the economics didn’t previously make sense, given that the A321XLR is more fuel efficient and longer range than the 757

As far as the onboard product goes, what should we expect? Here’s what we know for sure:

  • United will introduce an all new Polaris business class seat for the A321XLR, since the current Polaris seat can’t be installed on narrow body aircraft
  • United will be installing Premium Plus premium economy on the A321XLR, which you’ll otherwise only find on wide body aircraft
United Premium Plus on the Boeing 767-300

I don’t think there’s anything terribly surprising here. Many airlines will likely be configuring their A321XLRs in a premium layout, since that’s how the economics most make sense for long haul service. I’d expect the seat counts on these planes for airlines that take this approach to be much closer to 150 than 200.

While this hasn’t been officially confirmed, insider @xJonNYC hints at the following:

  • United’s A321XLR business class product will likely feature doors
  • United’s A321XLRs will likely be very premium, with somewhere around 20 Polaris business class seats and 12 Premium Plus premium economy seats; of course this could change, since we’re still a few years off from United getting these planes

American has similar plans for its A321XLRs

American Airlines was the first major US carrier to order the Airbus A321XLR, as the airline has also ordered 50, which will be delivered starting in 2024. Based on the current timeline, American is expected to get eight of these planes in 2024, 22 of these planes in 2025, and 20 of these planes in 2026.

Much like United, American plans to install a business class product with fully flat seats and direct aisle access, plus a premium economy cabin. Arguably American has much more of an immediate need for these planes than United does, given that American retired its entire Boeing 757 and 767 fleet during the pandemic.

American’s smallest long haul aircraft is the Boeing 787, and that means there are many long haul markets that American can’t currently serve.

American Airlines also has 50 A321XLRs on order

What kind of a business class product can we expect?

With the A321XLR on the way, how much innovation can we really expect in business class? I think it’s interesting to look at some of the most impressive products we currently see on long haul configured A321s.

French all-business class airline La Compagnie has Airbus A321neos featuring Collins Aerospace Diamond seats. While the seats as such are hardly cutting edge, the layout sure is swanky-looking, in my opinion. It’s also incredibly efficient for the airline, as these seats don’t take up a lot of space.

La Compagnie Airbus A321neo cabin

Aer Lingus, TAP Air Portugal, and Scandinavian Airlines, all have Airbus A321LRs, featuring staggered seats in business class. That’s a good product for the type of plane, and in particular the single seats are good. But again, this is hardly a cutting edge product, as these seats have been found on wide body planes for years.

Aer Lingus A321LR cabin

JetBlue started flying Airbus A321LR in 2021, and these are the first A321s to feature direct aisle access and doors from every premium seat. While JetBlue offers a phenomenal passenger experience, in many ways these seats are a step backwards, as herringbone seats (facing the aisle) are quite outdated.

JetBlue A321LR cabin

My guess is that United Airlines will go with one of two business class seats for its A321XLRs.

The STELIA OPERA seat is custom-made for the A321XLR, as it’s produced by a subsidiary of Airbus. This is essentially a modified reverse herringbone seat with a door. This looks great, especially for a narrow body aircraft, so I think it’s pretty likely we see this seat on American and/or United.

STELIA OPERA narrow body business class seat

There’s another option, though. Seat manufacturer Safran has the VUE product, which is also specifically designed for narrow body aircraft.

Safran VUE narrow body business class seat
Safran VUE narrow body business class seat

Bottom line

In a few years United Airlines is expected to start taking delivery of Airbus A321XLR aircraft, which should feature a pretty great inflight product. United’s A321XLRs are expected to be in quite a premium configuration, featuring new Polaris business class seats with direct aisle access and doors, as well as a Premium Plus premium economy cabin.

I can’t wait to see the cabins of some of the A321XLRs on order, as this should represent a new era for narrow body luxury.

What are you expecting from United Airlines’ A321XLRs?

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  1. Jimmy Dunn Guest

    Interesting that Delta which also is getting the A321 is not mentioned in this article. They are rumored to have two configurations (another airline blog with Delta One seats with doors as well.

    1. MC Guest

      The only time this author or blog, for that matter, makes any reference to Delta, it’s through a negative lens. Countless stories on TPG that just fall under the radar on this blog.

      They are so myopic that you have to wonder what they’re getting in return or whose payroll they’re on.

  2. Gregsdc New Member

    Like, I suspect, the vast majority of the traveling public, I'm not going to base my booking decision on herringbone vs. reverse herringbone. Does the seat lay flat and are the service and experience premium? Those are the boxes airlines need to check. Not having to climb over your seat mate is also an obvious bonus.

    BTW, Lucky, EWR-BOG isn't particularly far...closer than Vegas!

    1. Matty T Guest

      EWR-BOG is 200NM further than EWR-LAS

  3. Jenny Guest

    I love the JetBlue layout… and I like looking out the window. It makes much more sense to be sitting beside the window looking out so you can easily see the ground or into the horizon. The traditional wide body seat positions are bad in my view. Any time I want to look out I have to lean across the side area which was ok in the past but now with 3point belts on newer...

    I love the JetBlue layout… and I like looking out the window. It makes much more sense to be sitting beside the window looking out so you can easily see the ground or into the horizon. The traditional wide body seat positions are bad in my view. Any time I want to look out I have to lean across the side area which was ok in the past but now with 3point belts on newer aircraft I can’t look to the ground during take off. I hope to see this Jetblue seat introduced on international wide body flights

  4. Dale Guest

    United is phasing out the 757 but I have flown them twice in the last month. More sloppy writing from this blog. I have read two articles today and noticed two errors regarding United.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      There is nothing inaccurate about what was said about UA's 757s. The company does intend to phase them out and that will happen shortly after the A321XLRs enter service - which is delayed for several more years.
      It is not clear that the A321XLR will have more usable range than the B757-200 (UA and DL operates the -200 and -300); manufacturer range claims end up being whittled down considerably esp. during winter ops over...

      There is nothing inaccurate about what was said about UA's 757s. The company does intend to phase them out and that will happen shortly after the A321XLRs enter service - which is delayed for several more years.
      It is not clear that the A321XLR will have more usable range than the B757-200 (UA and DL operates the -200 and -300); manufacturer range claims end up being whittled down considerably esp. during winter ops over the Atlantic.

      I will say that I would prefer not to keep reading another speculative story about airplane cabins based on one person that hears some leak and then adds their own speculation; if there is a confirmed seat brand and/or picture, that is one thing.

      And all of the talk about what AA and UA are going to do with their A321XLRs will be an afterthought to DL's premium A321NEO configuration which is supposed to enter service before the XLR. There apparently are no leaks about what kind of premium seat will be on those aircraft but they are intended to be used on US transcon rather transatlantic routes so they will be fully competitive with whatever AA and UA puts on its XLRs and will likely have similar numbers of seats in each of the comparable cabins.

  5. Dominic Kivni Guest

    The herringbone Jetblue seat is one of the best narrow-body products around...it's only a step back for passengers who want to spend a lot of time looking out the window. That group is mostly leisure travelers, points travelers and travel bloggers, none of which are the target customer base for these seats. Business travelers for the most part don't care about that, and they're the ones who actually pay cash for these seats that justify airlines installing them

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      No question JetBlue's transatlantic offering is great but herringbone is definitely outdated. The only carriers who still have herringbone - notably Air NZ and Virgin - are replacing them. You're making a broad, unfounded, assumption about windows. I like a view regardless of whether my employer or I pay for the ticket.

  6. Mark Guest

    Ben, you’re forgetting AA 321Ts with 10 Zodiac Cirrus seats in a 1-1 configuration. The Safran VUE and Stelia seats are updates to that configuration, which works quite well.

    Perhaps the most important “innovation” for premium cabin seating in new A321s (applicable to newer NEOs, LRs, and all XLRs) is the removal of door 2 in favor of an over wing exit. Door 2 on A321 classics is seldom if ever used for boarding as...

    Ben, you’re forgetting AA 321Ts with 10 Zodiac Cirrus seats in a 1-1 configuration. The Safran VUE and Stelia seats are updates to that configuration, which works quite well.

    Perhaps the most important “innovation” for premium cabin seating in new A321s (applicable to newer NEOs, LRs, and all XLRs) is the removal of door 2 in favor of an over wing exit. Door 2 on A321 classics is seldom if ever used for boarding as jet bridges can get dangerously close to the wing. Removing it allows for more flexible cabin configurations—including a larger premium cabin.

  7. Paul Guest

    The future of premium travel with single aisle cabins are in suites with or without a door. It has to be spacious and comfortable. And never forget even with the best hardware, a great catering and cabin service are also important, in some cases even more.
    I am a fan of Jetblue Biz Suite Class, especially the catering. It is the benchmark for North American carriers.

  8. Greg Guest

    Boarding through 2L is a must for a premium experience. Forward door boarding scuffs up the seats, makes for a less competitive experience.

    1. Jordan Gold

      Well that might be true, but its not happening on narrow body planes :-)

      Yes its not ideal to be sitting in an F or J cabin in the A321 with people moving past, but its not terrible. Life goes on.

    2. brianna hoffner Member

      Completely agree. I love "turn left" F/J boarding and it feels like the travel bloggers really downplay how nice it is to have a calm environment and the ability to get up and down as much as you want during the entire of the boarding process.

    3. LEo Diamond

      I have seen hundreds of 757/204/321 boarding, and non of them uses L2 to board, if you care about the privacy, maybe board last? and instead, spend the PDB time in the lounge bar?

    4. S Gold

      Virtually all 757s board from L2, at least on the flights I've been on. I can't remember the last 757 flight we boarded from L1.

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tipsyinmadras Diamond

No question JetBlue's transatlantic offering is great but herringbone is definitely outdated. The only carriers who still have herringbone - notably Air NZ and Virgin - are replacing them. You're making a broad, unfounded, assumption about windows. I like a view regardless of whether my employer or I pay for the ticket.

3
S Gold

Virtually all 757s board from L2, at least on the flights I've been on. I can't remember the last 757 flight we boarded from L1.

1
LEo Diamond

I have seen hundreds of 757/204/321 boarding, and non of them uses L2 to board, if you care about the privacy, maybe board last? and instead, spend the PDB time in the lounge bar?

1
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