United Plans To Install Lie Flat Seats On Some 737s

It has been cool to see the increasing trend of airlines installing fully flat seats on narrowbody planes. With business travelers valuing frequency, often operating many small planes in a market is better than operating a few big planes with fewer frequencies. At the same time, airlines haven’t used that as an excuse to offer a lackluster product on some of these planes.

It looks like United will be one of the next airlines to install fully flat seats on planes that didn’t traditionally have them.

United president Scott Kirby has announced that United plans to install fully flat beds on some of their Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft.

United has 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft on order, which they’ll begin taking delivery of in 2020, so these planes are still a couple of years from being in service. United’s intent with installing flat beds on some of these planes is twofold:

  • They want to use them to eventually replace the 15 aging Boeing 757s that they fly domestically, primarily between Newark and Los Angeles/San Francisco
  • They want to expand fully flat beds to more domestic markets, but haven’t had the planes to do it up until now

FlightGlobal quotes Kirby as saying the following:

“It’s been really successful in the markets that we have it in. There are other markets out of Newark and [Washington] Dulles that we would like to have it but we simply don’t have airplanes to do it today.”

“Would San Francisco to Washington DC work? Probably. That’s part about creating a fleet we can experiment with and see which markets work and which don’t.”

The 737 MAX 10 is Boeing’s competitor to the Airbus A321neo. The plane would typically have the capacity for about 189 passengers, but obviously that would be reduced for the planes on which United would have flat beds.

The airline is apparently already working on a prototype for the new business class seat, which they’re testing with passengers this fall. I’ll be curious to see what they come up with.

While several airlines have flat beds on A321s — including American and JetBlue — not many airlines have flat beds on 737s.


American’s A321 first class


JetBlue’s A321 Mint

The first airline to install flat beds on the 737 MAX was FlyDubai, which installed 10 flat beds on their 737s. These are very similar to JetBlue’s Mint seats.


FlyDubai’s 737 business class


FlyDubai’s 737 business class

My guess is that United would go with something similar, assuming that they intend to evolve their product, rather than just going with the same B/E Aerospace Diamond seats that they have on their 757s, as well as various other longhaul aircraft.


United’s 777 business class

Interestingly Malaysia Airlines has also stated that they plan to install flat beds on their 737 MAX 10 aircraft, and they even intent to offer direct aisle access from every seat.

What do you think of United’s plan to install flat beds on 737 MAX 10 aircraft? What kind of a seat do you think they’ll go with?

Comments

  1. I’m all for this, those PS 757s ARE HORRID. I’ve done 50+ EWR-SFO on those things and it’s not fun. They are in such shabby condition and have frequent maintenance issues…i’d go for a cramped new 737MAX over those broken down 757s….

  2. I used to be a UA loyalist for years, but I’ve avoided them like the plague the last 10 years or so.

    If they put flat beds on IAD-SFO v.v. I would seriously consider giving them another try, as if I’m sleeping I don’t mind disinterested service or bad food.

  3. Not try to hijack the post… But I just flown with united and missed connection in Chicago today. I quickly called desk to rebook but the only seat was available today was last flight on first class. I asked to buy as my ticket was econ. It would be hundreds of dollars but he said.. “Because the class of ticket he can’t upgrade me” I said for approx $500 where I see five empty first class seats, he said no. I walked to desk in person in concourse and the answer was the same. They dont want my $500, but rather send the plane with empty first class. Am I dreaming?

  4. I’m a bit surprised this is news. Both domestic and international 757s have had lie flat (or close to) seats for years. Now that Boeing has stretched the 737 so the 737-900 and -1000 are becoming more or less equivalent to the 757 in terms of range and passenger count, I would expect airlines to configure the stretched 737’s as they do with their 757s.

  5. @Endre – the flight would never fly with empty seats — you could have gone on standby on that flight, as it’s almost guaranteed to have some upgraders, which means you could then get the economy seat – so your chances of clearing the standby list at the gate might have been ok, once upgrades were processed.
    You’re right that more flexibility would be helpful sometimes, but the system is what it is.

  6. I’m not sure I see UA choosing to improve over their existing 757 lie-flat product. The Jet Blue and Fly Dubai configurations (appear to) provide fewer seats in the same square footage, plus AA has a nearly identical product in their transcon J. Why should UA innovate if they needn’t in the first place. That said, this is still a great move and benefit for those of us that fly cross-country frequently.

  7. Plane is to small IMHO It would feel cramped
    Even their premium service in First you had to jump over someones legs if you were in a window
    When/if they have 767s or a 777 absolutely
    They always try to put in to many seats so it will never be good

  8. That’s a good move but the main concern is the size of the toilet. We all heard how bad it us with AA with only 2 feet wide. I flew firat cabin on a fairly new 739 recently and the toilet is so cramped. I can even lift the seat, it won’t stay up due to bad design.

  9. I hate UA’s 737s. But as there are sooooooooo many of them, they are hard to avoid. Any variant of a 737 to me sucks. If they put a flat bed in there, I will still avoid the 737. I can see UA stealing many inches from economy (Hello 29″ leg room!) to get a few rows of flat beds in. Damn those economy flyers! And, they’ll NEVER get upgraded!

  10. 737 is for profit only, not for passenger centric travel enjoyment. (low ratio of pax to bathrooms too) //

  11. @ Endre

    I don’t understand. I thought you always flew paid 1st Class? Anyway, it feels like that’s what you write on here under almost every post.

    Has something terrible happened to you, that you are now forced to scrimp and save?

    Ah, the cruelty of fate. My heart goes out to you.

    But United? After Dr Dao, I’m staggered that anyone would continue to put their lives into the hands of this company.

  12. Isn’t the capacity of the Max 10 / A321more like 220-230 in single class set up. 189 sounds more like the A320 / -800 / Max 8 capacity. Ryanair has 189 seats on its -800’s for instance.

    Anyway back to the point of the post, will be interesting to see the set up they go for. Can’t help thinking that a 737 fuselage is going to be tight to fit current generation biz class seats in at a density to make it worthwhile so they are probably going to have to modify something to make it narrower I would think. Look forward to seeing what they go with.

  13. The nice Paul – The Endre with the profile pic is the real one. Our a55hat Endre is a fake.

  14. Direct aisle access would be great but honestly, for a ~5 hour domestic flight as long as it’s lie flat I think that’s great – doesn’t need to be the world’s best product. Some people are too critical for something that is honestly not that long of a flight.

  15. I’d think they would do some sort of stagger. I like the B6 product, but it creates “classes” of business class. With seat technology today, I’d assume they could do an aisle access product similar to Polaris.

  16. This would be amazing. Lie-flats on a narrowbody isn’t the most luxurious, but it’s perfectly fine for a transcon. I just flew AA’s 321 from SFO to JFK in J and it was very good. Sure, I didn’t love that I had a stranger next to me and that she had to climb over me to get to the aisle, but it’s manageable. And that experience is a HUGE improvement over the typical domestic first class recliner seat.

    Don’t forget that a westbound transcon in Winter can easily be a 6 – 6.5 hour flight. Add in boarding time, tarmac delays, etc. and it can get quite lengthy. Almost equivalent to an eastbound TATL flight.

  17. One problem is that all the 737 aircraft are narrow narrow-body aircraft, enough to notice not only in steerage but up-front in premium class seating, compared to the 757 or any of narrow body A3xx series (A319, A320, A321). Unless United goes for window / direct aisle access seating, possibly angled, those lie-flat seats will be somewhat cramped.

  18. I would prefer that UA just pull the 767’s off their International routes, replace with 787-8 and use the 767’s for the flat bed transcon’s.

    737 is too narrow compared to A321.

  19. @Dov

    757 and 737 have the same fuselage diameter. 757 only appears more spacious because the floor is relatively lower.

  20. Boy would it be cool if they put in the new VantageSolo seats you wrote about earlier! I wonder how the size dimensions compare to FlyDubai’s seats!

  21. @Endre. Yes, you’re dreaming. And No, those first class seats would not have gone out empty. There was probably a long line of Elites waiting for their complimentary upgrades. United doesn’t owe you any loyalty for offering $500 for a transcon flight upgrade. They for once did the right thing and doled out the upgrades to their Elites as promised.

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