As United Airlines returns more mainline aircraft to service and looks to hire more pilots, it is adding more seats to the Embraer 175, its largest regional jet.
United Airlines Will Reinstall Seats On 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).
During the pandemic, United ripped out six seats from its fleet of Embraer 175s. This was not for social distancing. Rather, it was to be in compliance with its contract with mainline pilots.
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 signed.
United’s so-called “scope clause” agreement with its pilots limits the number of seats on regional jets in proportion to mainline 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.
The removal of seats was completed last October and November. Now that United has avoided pilot furloughs and restored many grounded aircraft to service, all Embraer 175s will return to 76 seats starting in May.
On some E175s United simply removed six seats in the rear of the aircraft. On others, it not only removed seats but spaced them out to add an extra row of EconomyPlus, United’s extra legroom economy class product. Until June, only 70 seats will be sold in case of last-minute equipment swaps.
With a healthy rebound in domestic travel, United is contractually able to re-add six seats to its regional jets. This process will begin next month and be completed by early June.