United Airlines is removing seats from its fleet of Embraer 175 jet and it’s not for social distancing…
United Removes Seats From Embraer 175
Via its United Express partners, United operates a fleet of 172 76-seat regional Embraer 175 aircraft. These are operated by Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways, and SkyWest Airlines and these two-cabin aircraft have traditionally featured 12 seats in first class and 64 seats in economy class (split between 16 in United EconomyPlus with three extra inches of legroom and 48 in United Economy).
But two new seating configurations recently appeared on the United website. The first maintains 12 seats in first class, doubles the size of EconomyPlus to 32 seats, and leaves 26 seats in economy class, for a total of 70 seats (with power plugs throughout the aircraft):
A second configuration includes 12 seats in first class, 16 in EconomyPlus, and and 42 in United economy for a total of 70 seats:
What gives? Is United simply removing seats so customers can spread out?
No. The move foreshadows mainline pilot furloughs that are likely to come.
Under its contract with the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), the union representing United pilots, United is required to remove seats from its larger regional jets if it furloughs pilots hired before the contract was sign.
United’s so-called “scope clause” agreement with its pilots limits the number of seats on regional jets. Mainline pilot unions have alway been concerned that United will slowly try to replace its well-paid workers with an increasing number of low-paid regional jet pilots by enlarging the size of so-called “regional” jets. This became a major sticking point during the last round of contract negotiations. The problem is hardly exclusive to United.
Andrew Nocella, United’s Chief Commercial Officer, warned about these cuts in May:
“We have the engineering being worked on right now, and we will have them removed by October 1.”
It appears they are are actually coming now, though another payroll support bill is under consideration by Congress and supported by the White House.
Whether by adding more EconomyPlus seats or simply removing seats from United economy, United’s already comfortable regional jets may soon become even more comfortable. I already prefer the Embraer 175 over many mainline narrowbody jets and this may make it even more comfortable. But the reasons for seat removal have nothing to do with comfort…