United Airlines announced it will purchase 29 new aircraft, including 25 Embraer E-175 and four Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. But there is mystery surrounding the 787-9 order.
First, the Embraer E-175s are among the most spacious and comfortable regional jets. These aircraft will replace 25 CRJ-700 that are currently in use by United Express partners. While the CRJ-700 is just okay, the Embraer E-175 offers a larger first class cabin and feels much more like a mainline jet than the CRJ-700.
The four 787-9s will feature United’s “real” Polaris seating. Currently, all United 787-8s and 787-9s feature 2-2-2 B/E Aerospace Diamond seats, which are comfortable but do not allow direct-aisle access to those sitting beside the window. The new 787-9s will features the Zodiac Polaris seat which offers direct aisle access from every seat.
United B/E Aerospace Diamond Business Class
United Zodiac Polaris Business Class
My big question: will the current premium cabin density (48 business class seats spread over two cabins) be maintained?
Here’s United’s current 787-9 configuration:
You can see business class is spread over two cabins, both a large main cabin (30 seats) and three rows in a mini-cabin behind door 2 (18 seats).
Since the new Polaris seats maintain a similar density to the present configuration, let’s assume the forward cabin will remain 30 seats. Now the question becomes where will United’s new premium economy product, Premium Plus seating go. Will this aircraft even have Premium Plus? There’s only two options: take from business class or take from economy class. On the one hand, the mini-cabin behind door 2 is the perfect place for a premium economy cabin. But that would also mean United could squeeze in five rows, which would create a bigger Premium Plus cabin than on the 777.
The current 787-9s have 88 seats in EconomyPlus. The other option, of course, would be to remove some of the EconomyPlus seats for Premium Plus seating, as United will do on the 777s.
United’s choice may greatly implicate award space and upgrades. I tend to think United will maintain 48 seats in business class.
I’ve reached out to United to see if it will confirm what the LOPA (layout of passenger accommodation) will look like on the 787-9. I’ll report back if I hear back. In the meantime, United’s new aircraft should be a welcome addition to the fleet. United will also continue its program of buying used aircraft.
top image: Bill Abbott / Wikimedia Commons