United makes some changes that you’ll actually like!

Per UA Insider on FlyerTalk, United is actually making some positive changes, and there doesn’t seem to be a catch!

Improved long-haul comfort with more flat-bed seats. In September, we’ll begin installing all-new flat-bed seats in the premium cabins on 26 Boeing 767s – 12 Continental 767-400 aircraft and 14 United 767-300 aircraft (the ones currently in a domestic configuration). These aircraft will also have audio-video on demand and in-seat power from nose to tail. As for our three-cabin 777s, these retrofits are continuing with 17 of 46 aircraft complete and another dozen added to that by year-end. All of these aircraft will have advanced in-flight entertainment in First and Business and on-demand entertainment in Economy. To date, we have more flat-bed seats than any other U.S. airline, with 124 aircraft reconfigured to date and 185 once the 767 and 777 fleets are completed.

Wow, so United is actually reconfiguring some of their domestic 767s for international flying. It sounds like they’ll be two cabin planes, as opposed to United’s international 767s, which are currently configured with first class. Regardless, that’s great news, since United’s domestic 767s are among the most uncomfortable in the fleet.

More Economy Plus, and soon. This fall we’ll also begin installing Economy Plus seating on our Continental mainline aircraft. We aim to have it on 38 Continental aircraft by year end (including some of the 767-400s mentioned above) and plus another 100 by next spring. Once we’re done, we will have Economy Plus on over 850 aircraft – more than any other airline. Worth noting: when installing Economy Plus on the Continental aircraft, we’ll be taking Economy Class seats out and leaving First and Business Class cabins intact.

Now this is actually huge news. When United announced that Economy Plus was going to stay, I said to myself “right, but at the expense of how many first class seats?” I figured they’d be taking a row of first class out of Continental’s 737 fleet and adding Economy Plus. But that’s not the case. Instead, the Economy Plus seats will come at the expense of “regular” coach seats. Fantastic.

First Class and Economy Plus is coming to all 29 of our United Express Q400s. Enjoy!

First class on United props? Props to United!

Channel 9? Roger that. Our Channel 9 air traffic control audio channel will be added to all Continental aircraft equipped with in-flight entertainment (said another way: everything but the 737-500s). The first aircraft to get it will be our renovated Continental 767-400s, which will begin re-entering the fleet this fall.

More awesome news. I hope they discussed this with their pilots union!

Bigger bins coming to over 150 aircraft. Beginning in March 2012, we’ll nearly double the size of the overhead bins on our 152 Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. The larger bins will accommodate a standard 22-inch rolling bag with wheels facing out resulting in increased space of 66 percent. At the same time, we’ll also refresh the interiors of this fleet.

I suppose this is good news, though I’m quite puzzled. The A320s already have the biggest overhead bins in United’s domestic fleet. Doubling the size of the overhead bins? Now people will carry on even more crap. At least there will be less of an issue with gate checking bags.

Streaming in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi are in the works. We’re currently selecting a vendor to provide streaming video in-flight entertainment option on our 747-400 aircraft, enabling customers to access video options via their Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices, tablets and laptop computers. This would be in addition to the audio-video on-demand currently offered in First and Business Class. We’re also continuing with our plan to install Wi-Fi on our aircraft. Last March, Continental Airlines signed a letter of intent with LiveTV to install advanced broadband Wi-Fi using Ka-band satellite technology on more than 200 737 and 757 aircraft equipped with DIRECTV. Stay tuned on this front, there’s more to come.

United’s gotta do better than this. They’re simply so uncompetitive in this respect. American and Delta are so far ahead on the Wi-Fi front that it’s downright embarrassing for United. You can’t be the airline of business travelers without having Wi-Fi on most of your planes. How about investing in this instead of bigger overhead bins?

Major facelift for p.s. We’ll be doing a complete nose-to-tail renovation of our popular p.s. fleet, which serve the New York Kennedy to San Francisco and Los Angeles markets. When completed in 2013, these aircraft will be in a two-cabin configuration with 26 flat-bed Business Class seats and 114 in Economy. These aircraft will also offer Economy Plus, power ports at every row, on-demand audio and video and Wi-Fi service.

This is probably a wash. On one hand PS planes are going from 38 premium seats to 26 premium seats. That means upgrades are getting much, much tougher, not only because of the reduction of premium seats, but because of the increased competition for those seats, since there will be about 50% more coach seats.

On the other hand, Economy Plus and audio and video on-demand are a huge step up from the current PS coach product.

So on the whole these are positive changes, and answer a lot of questions that were left about the merger. Now let’s just see what Mileage Plus looks like in 2012 (hopefully not like this).

Filed Under: Continental, United
  1. Coins,
    You said, in your opening, there doesn’t seem to be a catch. Well, that’s because they leaked the bad news prior to this. The ‘catch’ was upfront. Personally, I think UA is full of $h it. They have to upgrade their fleet to stay competitive. Who are they kidding??
    I’m getting dizzy from their spin.

    If they put real E+ into P.S, I’m interested. Truth be told, I wish they’d add 319/320’s to P.S. routes. Then, we’d have ‘real’ E+, and there would be no reason to use miles or a CR1 to upgrade to biz class.

  2. It’s funny you mention that E+ is a huge step up from the current PS setup since that’s what it was supposed to be already, but I agree with you.

    I also agree that they should really invest in entertainment, I used to fly a lot with AC but now I moved to SF so I fly UA/CO exclusively. Last Christmas I was doing YUL-LAS with AC again and I was just flabbergasted by the quality of their coach product in comparison to UA’s. More pitch, pleasant crew, good food and entertainment on demand, yeah!

    Now I’m looking at my SFO-LHR trip on UA’s 744 in November and I’m filled with sadness… even in E+ that’s going to be a long 10h.

  3. You’re being far too generous on the p.s. changes. Not only are upgrades going to be impossible, it’ll be that much more difficult to get a revenue seat to connect to internatonal itineraries. Not to mention award space going to the west coast to connection to Australia/NZ. Major, major thumbs down to getting rid of p.s. First.

  4. The re-configured UA 767-322ERs will be replacing all of the CO 762s. The UA 763s will also get winglets and be uprated for ETOPS.

    The CO 762s are old and (more importantly) too expensive to fly for the number of seats on-board. CO has reportedly already retired one of their 767-200s.

    So I expect the reconfigured 2-cabin ETOPS 763s to appear on flights in/around GUM, and also flights in/around HNL.

  5. @ Anonymous Coward: actually the CO 762s are new builds from the early 2000s. They feature PTVs in every seat and Boeing Signature (777) Interior

  6. I hope the new United does not decide to use these planes exclusively for flying to Hawaii and then prohibit UDUs or CR1s from being valid on them. This would be another dangling the carrot and wacking the customer back with a stick.

    I still have hope that the rumoured MP changes were leaked to test the waters, and I give lucky credit for his blog being a great source of potential opposition to these changes, so they hopefully do not in fact occur.

  7. The wi-fi streaming option actually seems like a great option for the planes that don’t have in-seat IFE (747 anyone?). This seems to be a novel feature. Any other instances of this in the industry?

  8. 767’s moving from domestic to int’l configs seems like a good thing on the surface, but I’m nervous this might really mean a net reduction in the number of widebodies serving domestic routes, and an increase in CO-style RJ’s as an offset (752s replace the 767s, A320s the 757s, etc, with RJ’s pluggin the gap in the end).

    Bigger bins sound good, assuming they will extend further into the aisle and not further down into my headroom.

    But worst of all- why do I get the feeling this announcement is timed in an attempt to soften the blow of the coming MP changes?

  9. @ Billy — Only time will tell, though I suspect United will be taking the flat bed 767s off the Hawaii routes and putting them on international routes instead, while keeping domestic 777s and 757s for Hawaii flying.

  10. @lucky – Thanks! Not exactly what I want to hear. Currently LAX/SFO – OGG they are showing 767-300 and a 757-200 in May 2012. I can take a CO 767 on the way back via DEN.. Might take the chance on the way there as there is no option via Houston to Honolulu than onto OGG.:(

  11. @jsgoldbe I agree it’s a novel idea, and can’t think of anyone else doing it, but what use will it be when batteries all die a few hours into the 10+ hour flight? Without in seat power, in economy class, this “enhancement” is not that useful in my opinion.


  12. On another track, here and there, I wonder if we’ll see SFO-BOS p.s. added. I’m thinking of it because there have been several recent instances, that I know of, of UA changing out a 757 to a 757 p.s., SFO-BOS, reported in FlyerTalk. Could be just a coincidence, as the change-out has occurred at scrimmage, so there’s no testing the market appeal. Just a thought.

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