United Airlines is about to very easily pass competitors American Airlines and Delta Air Lines in its transcontinental business class offering.
Unfortunately, the new United service will only apply to a limited number of the roughly two-dozen daily premium transcon flights United operates.
United announced the first routes for its Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner Monday, several daily transcontinental New York City to Los Angeles and San Francisco services. The state-of-the-art 787-10, largest of the Boeing Dreamliner family, will become the nicest jets flying regularly between U.S. cities, by a long shot.
The 787-10 will feature 44 of United’s newest Polaris seat, plus 21 of the airline’s Premium Plus premium economy cabin. That will make United first to offer frequent premium economy service on transcontinental U.S. routes. (American currently uses a Boeing 777-200 with premium economy seats to fly once daily between Los Angeles and Miami.)
United hasn’t yet released images with specifics on the economy cabin in the 787-10, but it’s doubtful the airline would change much from the current cabin used on the 787-9. The nine-across economy cabin is a bit of a squeeze on long-haul flights, but will be an improvement over the 757s United uses for most of its transcontinental services.
Beginning Jan. 7, United will operate Dreamliner flights daily to Los Angeles, a 7 a.m. departure arriving at 9:49 a.m. and a 4 p.m. departure arriving at 6:53 p.m. United will initially fly just one Dreamliner per day to San Francisco, a 4 p.m. departure arriving at 7:13 p.m.
The new services aren’t appearing in award calendar, yet, and United didn’t release specific times for eastbound flights.
The airline is adding over 700 new seats on transcon routes with the new service, 125 of which will be premium seats.
To compare, Delta Air Lines is currently the only airline to offer all-aisle access in business class on regular transcontinental service on between New York and the west coast. Delta uses decades-old Boeing 767s on that route, equipped with basic, staggered business class seats with small footwells sandwiched underneath side tables.
American serves all New York premium transcontinental services with specially equipped Airbus A321 single-aisle jets that have economy, business and first class cabins. Business class is provided in a reliable but dated B/E Diamond seating product — the same that Delta and United use on transcontinental Boeing 757 jets.
New York to California passengers used to the current offerings on classic jet aircraft will undoubtedly be impressed by the new Polaris seating and cavernous Dreamliner cabin. The Dreamliners will have higher cabin humidity, will be pressurized to a lower altitude and are noticeably quieter than any of the jets other airlines use on transcon flights.
We don’t know if this will become a permanent feature on the highly competitive transcontinental routes. United initially operated a single 777-300ER, with the new Polaris seats, on the Newark to San Francisco route, but has since replaced that jet with a stripped down domestically configured 777-200.
United flyers and really anyone who can fit these flights into their schedule would be well-served to actively seek out this aircraft on transcontinental flights next year.