First look: United’s new narrow-body cabins
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United Airlines announced a massive order on Tuesday for 270 narrow-body aircraft, the largest single order in its history.
Combined with existing orders, United expects to acquire 500 new aircraft by 2026.
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But that wasn’t all United announced: The airline also said the new planes would feature a new interior, with seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) at every seat. Even more notably, the airline plans to retrofit its entire existing narrow-body fleet by 2025.
At a media event held at United’s hanger 54 at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), TPG had a chance to briefly tour United’s first Boeing 737 Max 8. It’s the first plane to feature United’s new interior, which was delivered just a few days ago. Keep scrolling for a first look inside United’s new cabin.
United’s announcement on Tuesday was met with a lot of excitement, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. The new interiors are regular domestic narrow-body fare.
First class is standard recliner seats, with a few nifty storage nooks and a handy retractable remote so that passengers don’t have to reach ahead of them to pause or change their show or movie.
Nevertheless, the 13-inch screens were sharp, and the seats perfectly comfortable for any domestic hop — or even a shorter international trip, perhaps.
One cool feature available at every seat: The IFE screens have Bluetooth connectivity, meaning passengers can connect their personal wireless headphones for use during a flight, no adapters needed.
Next came the Economy Plus seats. The Max 8 features 54 of these extra-legroom seats spread across nine rows, in the standard 3-3 configuration.
Again, not a reinvented wheel. But as someone who’s flown a few times recently in American Airlines’ IFE-less, dense 737-800s (which are the same size), these seats certainly felt on the higher-end, more in line with Delta’s cabins that tend to be held in higher regard by travelers.
The Economy Plus and Economy seats feature 10-inch touchscreens, which, aside from their size, are just like the ones up in first class. They have a rotating selection of movies, TV shows, games, and more, according to Jaspreet Singh, a product manager at United who works on the airline’s in-flight entertainment systems.
Another cool feature: Each seatback screen shows the corresponding seat number during boarding. It’s a nice little addition, and one of those fairly low-effort things that nevertheless adds a more premium feel.
Every economy seat — the 54 extra-legroom seats and the 96 regular seats on this particular plane type — has an adjustable headrest with foldable wings.
The entire cabin has customized LED mood lighting, United says, which can be adjusted depending on time of day. It’s similar to the lighting Boeing offers with its newer planes, but customized to United’s branding specifications, an airline designer said.
The cabin also has redesigned overhead bins with enough storage room for one full-sized carry-on bag per passenger — hopefully eliminating the dreaded gate-check.
Each bin can fit up to six carry-on bags, the airline said.
While the new cabin is not a reinvented wheel, it appears to be a solid product in line with the top domestic offerings — aside from the few unique routes that feature lie-flat products.
United’s plan to retrofit the entire fleet is also a good one, and will mean an end to wondering whether you’ll have a nicer seat with IFE on a flight, or if you’ll get stuck with an aged product.
Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy
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