United Airlines will take delivery of its first “premium heavy” 767-300ER later this month, featuring a dramatic increase in business class seats.
Last year I wrote a piece entitled Will United Remove Seats From Business Class? after United’s Executive Vice President Andrew Nocella said:
We continue to look at the number of premium class seats we have onboard all our aircraft given where our hubs are located. And I think, we actually will have more to say on this in the future as we make sure that we have the right number onboard every single aircraft we have.
And with AA reducing its 787-8 business class cabin from 28 to 20 seats, I surmised that United might be planning a similar reduction. Delta is also in the process of removing business class seats from its 777s.
Thanks goodness I was way off in my hypothesis. Quite the contrary, Nocella was only referring to enlargement of business class coming to select 767-300 aircraft. Per Flight Global, retrofits are underway in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company.
The new aircraft, dubbed the 76L, will feature:
- 46 United Polaris (Business Class) seats
- 22 United Premium Plus (Premium Economy) seats
- 99 United Economy Seats
That’s up from the current configuration of 30 Polaris business class seats and 184 in United economy class (split between 46 in EconomyPlus and 138 in standard economic class).
United had provided virtually no insight on how many aircraft are being reconfigured, when these aircraft will enter service, and on what routes. EconomyPlus will remain, but only in the sections of two (seating is 2-3-2 in economy class).
United CEO Oscar Munoz did tell Skift’s Brian Sumers that London was under consideration and that “business-to-business markets are going to be the ones that we are going to fly those airplanes to.”
Going from 30 seats to 48 seats in Polaris Business Class is a dramatic premium cabin increase. It’s nice to see United leading instead of following Delta. United currently operates 35 Boeing 767-300s. Time will tell how many are retrofitted, but this cabin refresh marks an upgrade for premium cabin travelers. But what about economy class? I think many will appreciate the more intimate cabin.