As teased on Twitter, United Airlines is officially joining the trend of installing lie-flat seats on narrowbody planes.
According to an internal LOPA (layout of passenger accommodations) shared exclusively to Point Me To The Plane, United Airlines will be installing lie-flat seats on a number of their Boeing 737 Max 10s currently on order from the manufacturer.
Leaked Layout of Passenger Accommodation
As previously reported by One Mile At A Time, United announced in 2018 that they were exploring the option of installing lie-flat seats on their 737-10 fleet. According to the seatmap, which multiple sources at Boeing tell us has been internally locked, United has settled on 22 seats in a herringbone format.
The 737 Max 10 is the largest variant of Boeing’s troubled Max aircraft. It would typically have capacity for up to to 230 passengers in the densest configurations. Obviously, with so much of the plane taken up by the lie-flat seats, the new United planes will have far less capacity.
How will United use the planes?
United is the biggest customer of the 737 Max 10 with 100 of them on order from Boeing. The airline currently plans for 50 of their 737-10s on order to be delivered with the new seats, representing fully half the order.
United plans to use the Boeing 737 Max 10 as a replacement for its very old fleet of 15 Boeing 757 aircraft. Business travelers prefer frequency so operating the small planes more often will allow United to better compete than by operating a bigger aircraft with less frequency.
With 50 of the 737-10s with lie-flat seats on order, United will be able to offer significantly more transcontinental lie-flat capacity and not just in typically premium markets.
United competes with a significant handicap in the New York City market with its hub outside the City at EWR rather than JFK. If United can expand premium service to secondary markets using new planes with lie-flat seats, that could provide them with a competitive advantage.
United Airlines would be joining competitors like American which operates a “Flagship” A321 configured with 10 reverse herringbone lie-flat seats in first class and 20 more lie-flat seats in business in a 2-2 configuration. JetBlue also offers 16 of their fully-flat Mint seats on key domestic routes. Of course, Continental was one of the first carriers to fly narrowbody aircraft to Europe from Newark and so this wouldn’t be a new approach for United.
United could also take advantage of the 737 Max 10’s range to unlock key international destinations.
The new 737-10s will allow United to offer a better premium experience on key markets that may not be able to support a widebody. Key secondary markets in Europe are unlocked by the 737-10s range from the east coast as well as many destinations in Latin America.
United’s fellow Star Alliance-member, TAP Air Portugal, already utilizes the A321LR on transatlantic routes as does United’s MileagePlus partner Aer Lingus.
In fact, Panama-based Copa Airlines, a United partner, is installing lie-flat seats on their 737 Max 9 aircraft which will be deployed on key international routes in Latin America.
Bienvenidos al comienzo de una Era de nuevas experiencias y comodidad, de sostenibilidad y de mayores oportunidades. Les presentamos nuestro nuevo #MAX9, el avión más confortable y sostenible de nuestra historia. ¡Bienvenidos a la #EraMAX! #CopaalMAXimo pic.twitter.com/UBQEiWQOsO
— Copa Airlines (@CopaAirlines) September 18, 2018
United’s plans to install lie-flat seats on the 737-10 fleet have been rumored for a while, but this is the first time we’ve gotten concrete confirmation like this. With the ongoing Max situation, the planes will likely be delayed for a while, but it will be interesting to see exactly which markets United chooses to deploy this aircraft on.
Chris Dong contributed to this post. Have a tip? Feel free to reach out over email, Twitter, or Instagram.
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