United’s Order for Planes with *Fewer* Seats, Explained

by Sam Roecker

Image result for united airlines logo wikimedia

United Ordered 25 Embraer E-175 Aircraft and Four 787-9 Dreamliners

・ New E-175 aircraft will have six fewer seats than the current configuration (70 total)

・ United also ordered four 787-9s with ‘real’ Polaris seats for delivery in 2020

・ United has not confirmed the layout for either aircraft

Yes, Fewer Seats

It’s hard to imagine, right? An airline ordering new planes and installing fewer seats sounds like a cruel joke in the era of ‘slimline’ lavatories. Thanks to very restrictive pilot scope clauses, United is maxed out on the number of 76-seat regional jets it can add to its fleet of 153 aircraft – more on that below.

United Embraer E-175 Aircraft

United Embraer E-175 | Photo: SkyWest

Current E-175 Aircraft Have 76 Seats

United’s current E-175 aircraft are configured with 12 first class seats – versus six on the CRJ-700 – making the aircraft a passenger favorite, at least within the context of regional jets. United’s current 76-seat configuration includes: 12 United First seats | 16 Economy Plus seats | 48 economy seats

United Embraer E-175 Seat Map

United E-175 Seat Map | Image: United

As a workaround to its already maxed out fleet, United is replacing 25 CRJ-700s to maintain a net zero change in fleet size. The challenge? United’s CRJ-700s have 70 seats, not 76. That means the ‘replacement’ E-175 aircraft are capped at 70 seats, raising an important question…

How Will United Configure the New E-175 Aircraft?

Faced with similar pilot scope clause restrictions, Delta created a sub-fleet of E-175s configured with 70 seats. Can you spot the differences?


Delta E-175 Seat Map

Delta’s Two E-175 Configurations


The two configurations look almost identical, except for the missing row 20 (four seats) and added closet at row 19 (two seats). Will United copy Delta’s workaround?

New Boeing 787-9 Aircraft Feature ‘Real Polaris’ Seats

Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly asked a similar question about United’s new 787-9 configuration: will United maintain the same premium cabin density?

Current 787-9 deliveries still feature the 2 x 2 x 2 configuration B/E Diamond Seats from the Continental era with 28 seats spread across two cabins:

United 787-10 Seat Map

United 787-9 and 787-10 Configurations

The 787-10 (78J) Polaris cabin – set to enter service later this year – has one cabin between doors 1 and 2, although it’s not an exact comparison since the 787-10 fuselage is 18 feet (5 meters) longer than the 787-9.

Since United’s 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliner fleet will be the last to receive Polaris modifications, the official cabin layout (known as a LOPA – layout of passenger accommodations) remains a mystery.

Based on the premium-heavy routes the 787-9 operates today, I’d guess United will maintain a relatively premium configuration on the new configuration. The -9 variant Dreamliners operate many of United’s core business routes to destinations including London, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, and Tokyo.


Stay tuned for updates. 


H/T: Live and Let’s Fly

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