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It’s been a while since United announced they would be updating their entire 757 p.s. Premium Services fleet, which the airline uses to service its transcontinental JFK-LAX/SFO routes – the airline flies 40 flights each way per week between JFK and LAX, and 46 flights each way per week between JFK and San Francisco. The first aircraft was scheduled to begin flying in March, and sure enough, yesterday it did with United flight 651 between Los Angeles LAX and New York JFK.
As part of the overhaul, the airline is putting in regular economy seats and combining business and first class into a new cabin of BusinessFirst seats.
The new features of United’s refreshed p.s. product include:
- 28 United BusinessFirst seats with 180-degree flat-bed seats with 6’4” of space when fully extended, and 15.4-inch entertainment monitors
- 48 seats in Economy Plus with 36 inches of legroom and 9-inch entertainment monitors
- 66 seats in United Economy with individual seatback 9-inch entertainment monitors
- Complimentary in-seat audio/video on-demand entertainment with over 150 hours of programing
- USB and standard 110v power outlets accessible from every seat
- Gogo WiFi (coming later this year and the airline promises connection speeds up to 3x faster)
As United constantly points out (anyone who’s been on a flight in the past year or so has seen Jeff Smisek talking about investing “more than half a billion dollars” in the fleet), this is all part of a larger $550-million investment the airline is making in its fleet, which includes adding flat-bed seating to all its 185 long-haul aircraft, adding Economy Plus to more than 300 aircraft (this part is almost done, just about two dozen aircraft remain), retrofitting its 150 Airbus aircraft, installing WiFi on domestic and long-haul aircraft and introducing streaming wireless video aboard its 747-400’s.
Although it’s exciting airline news, flying United p.s. over the next 9 months or so as it completes the renovation of its planes is bound to be a bit of a nightmare as flyers try to figure out which configuration they’ll get and how upgrades will work.
The best way to tell if you are on a reconfigured plane is to look at the seat map on united.com, which would show 28 seats in United Business. The seat maps will generally reflect the older configuration until a few months before departure, when they will have a better idea of what kind of aircraft will be scheduled for a specific flight. Keep in mind this is always subject to change though due to aircraft substitutions.
To try to minimize the impact on flyers, starting June 6, United is only going to sell p.s. flights as two-cabin flights instead of the actual three-cabin configuration on the remaining un-renovated aircraft.
To determine who will get first class on flights that still have not been updated from the old three-cabin configuration, the previous first class cabin will be reserved for customers who had previously booked in United First, as well as Premier members who are already confirmed in United business. Specifically, Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold members can select one of these seats at any time if available, and Premier Silver members will have access to them at check-in. During the transition, these seats will be branded as United Business, rather than United First.
I have to say, I’m not sad to see the old first and business class go. I had a good experience flying United’s BusinessFirst product from Newark to Dublin in December – also aboard a 757 – and I found the layout to be sleek and contemporary whereas the old first and old business class cabins aboard the 757-200 p.s. transcontinental flights seemed dated and clunky.
Has anyone taken the new p.s. plane yet? Report on your experience below.