Live and Let’s Fly has learned that United Airlines will begin taking deliveries of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2025 that feature a higher density of business class seats.
United Airlines Will Introduce New Premium-Heavy 787 Configuration in 2025
United Airlines currently operates a trio of 787 variants, including:
- 787-8 – featuring 28 business class seats, 21 premium economy class seats, 194 economy class seats
- 787-9 – featuring 48 business class seats, 21 premium economy class seats, 188 economy class seats
- 787-10 – featuring 44 business class seats, 21 premium economy class seats, 253 economy class seats
In 2022, United placed a confirmed order for 100 additional 787 Dreamliners with an option for 100 more. Deliveries will span eight years between 2024 and 2032 and United will be able to choose the variant according to its current needs.
We have learned that United is planning a new so-called “high-J” (J being the indicator for business class) configuration for some of the deliveries starting in 2025 (not all). While a final decision has not been made, United is weighing this configuration on both the 787-9 and 787-10.
It is not clear if United will maintain its existing Polaris Business Class seat or introduce a new business class seats for its later Dreamliner deliveries.
With only 44 business class seats, all located between doors 1 and 2, on the 787-10, my own guess is that the 787-10 is the more likely candidate for a more premium configuration. I can envision a mini-cabin behind door two, just like on the 787-9, which could have at least eight additional seats.
Currently British Airways sets the standard for a “high-J” aircraft with its 787-10, which features eight first class seats and 48 business class seats. That cabin features a business class suite that stretches back well beyond door two.
> Read More: British Airways 787-10 Club World Suite Business Class Review
United is not alone. American Airlines will introduce a configuration with 52 business class seats on its 787-9, marking an industry-trend toward more business class seats.
While I still classify this news as a rumor, it comes from trusted sources and therefore I think we can safely say that United Airlines will debut an even more premium-heavy Dreamliner in 2025, though the variant has not been finalized. Even the very consideration of this configuration demonstrates sustained premium demand on longhaul aircraft that has been a financial boon to United on this side of the pandemic.
Interesting… I was actually expecting the opposite, and seeing UA reduce J significantly on future 78X deliveries in order to replace the aging Domestic 777 fleet.
Why would they replace the domestic 777 fleet with brand new 787-10s? They want these fuel efficient planes on long haul routes. They might convert some of the older international 777-200ERs that are currently equipped with Polaris in a domestic configuration, but not new deliveries.
I’d venture a guess that the high J sub fleet will be 787-9. This will give it enough range to reach India from more parts of the US (assuming Russian airspace is not usable for many years to come) and also other markets like EWR SIN. 787-10 is a plane that wins by low seat cost, so you want to cram as many seats on there as possible.
This really surprises me given the state of business travel. Unless I’m flying on miles my flights are generally in the back except when I’m flying for work and somebody else is paying – but my flying for work is a tiny fraction of what it used to be before Covid and seems very unlikely to revert back, and my sense is that is very typical for all of banking/finance/law etc.
I’m back flying J for work and the front (well, all tbh) cabins are packed and fares are higher than ever. Economy seems to be holding up so I can’t see any airline reducing J seats
Andrew Nocella mentioned this was in the works pre-COVID (though he did not specify whether it was a 777 or 787 configuration), with similar premium cabin density to the 76L.
My guess would be it is a 787-9 with something like 60 Polaris, 28 Premium Plus and 124 Economy, which is similar density to the 76L. A 789 in such a configuration would enable more premium seats to ULH markets like SIN, or to allow United to flex up premium capacity without going up to a 350-seat 77W.
OTOH, if an extended-range 787-10 can deliver 787-9 performance at a lower density configuration (chiefly SFO-SIN) then I could see that, instead.
It’s important to remember a lot of these planes are going to be 767 replacements, of which they have a lot of 767s configured in a premium heavy configuration, so they’ll want to replace that. When the 767 goes, what type of plane is going to fly between EWR and LHR for example? Doubt you could support 7 daily 787s on the route, especially in the current configuration. You’ll need a more premium heavy 787 and still will likely have to reallocate some of these slots to other hubs.
The points made above about creating a plane that can fly longer flights, such as an EWR-SIN, bringing back LAX-SIN, or India/China routes to avoid Russian airspace, are all valid ideas as well.
I think there are really 2 objectives for UA here. First to replace the 767 fleet and have a configuration that can do that, and then create a new one with less seats on the 789 that can open up new ultra long haul markets.
My thought exactly. I’d guess it’ll be the 787-9 and we’ll see a lot of them at Heathrow!
Honestly sounds exciting.
Could high-J mean one of those enhanced bulkhead J seats? I think that’s a cool trend.
I love the 787’s United flies, and often pick my flights just to be on that plane. And yes, I do all I can do to be in Business Class and not the back of the plane.
Definitely the right decision to pick the plane that puts pax comfort first as far as humidity levels alone. Hopefully reliability will hold up well. The fires early on were concerning but it’s definitely a beautiful plane. I wish the engines screamed but a very impressive speedy spool still.
There had better be a very high amount of premium leisure travelers to justify these big J cabins
However, the very high end leisure will book F.
UA would have been better improving and expanding their O cabin, as that is where business travelers will book (very few businesses allow for J these days)
Either a F-O-Y config (with O truly being halfway between Y and J) or a smaller hybrid businessfirst cabin, O, Y
given that United is rumored to be introducing a mew business class seat (which will hopefully coincide with the introduction of BT capable IFE to their long haul fleet), UA should wait until then to start taking hi-J 787s
I’m not an expert but from the articles I’m reading apparently the Airbus A 350 is a better plane . United should get 100 of those.
There is no such thing as a “better plane.” There are only better planes for various different missions depending upon different variables such as distance, load factor, freight, etc. A350 and 787 are not precisely interchangeable but fit different niches better.
There are though better (and worse) aircraft manufacturers, and Airbus is able to more reliably deliver planes when promised, while Boeing is trying to get a planes it promised in 2020 delivered by 2025 (and might not even make it).