Singapore and Sydney will be first to get United’s refreshed 787-9

Dec 18, 2019

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This week, United’s very first Newark-Cape Town flight touched down in South Africa, after months of anticipation and a festive inaugural celebration at Newark Liberty International Airport and onboard the roughly 14-hour flight.

Many TPG readers seemed surprised to see United Airlines operate the flight with its dated 2-2-2 business class, though — which, unfortunately, remains the one and only option on some of the carrier’s most high-profile routes.

United currently offers 2-2-2 seating on the 787-9. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
United currently offers 2-2-2 seating on the 787-9. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

The carrier is currently working through a Dreamliner-wide retrofit, however, updating all of its 787-8s and 787-9s with entirely new cabins, including 1-2-1 Polaris business-class seats and the new Premium Plus (premium economy) product.

At the time of this writing, United is working to update one 787-8 Dreamliner — N27908 — which should return to service any day now, and one larger and longer-range 787-9 — N29968 — which is expected to fly passengers again beginning in January 2020. All 12 787-8s and 25 787-9s should be flying with the new interiors by the end of next year.

Now, Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of network planning, has confirmed the first two routes that’ll get the updated planes — once enough 787-9s are updated to support regular service. Those flights include San Francisco (SFO)-Singapore, a roughly 17-hour journey that spans some 8,500 miles and operates twice daily, and Houston (IAH)-Sydney (SYD), which covers roughly the same distance and currently operates once each day.

Flights to Singapore and Sydney and two of United's longest routes. Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.
Flights to Singapore and Sydney and two of United’s longest routes. Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

Once complete, United’s 787-8s will offer 28 business-class seats, 21 in Premium Plus, 36 in Economy Plus and 158 in coach, while the larger 787-9s will sport 48 business-class seats, 21 in Premium Plus, 39 in Economy Plus and 149 in coach.

United will soon offer its 1-2-1 Polaris seats across the 787 fleet. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
United will soon offer its 1-2-1 Polaris seats across the 787 fleet. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

This will also be the first time United’s 787-8s and -9s will offer Premium Plus, but we won’t see that sold as a separate cabin on older Dreamliner routes until enough aircraft have been retrofitted to operate regular service, likely in the second half of 2020.

Premium Plus on United's 787-10. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
Premium Plus on United’s 787-10. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Once United’s older Dreamliners complete the retrofit process, and the carrier’s remaining 777-200s and 767-400ERs get a Polaris update, too, all of the carrier’s wide-body long-haul aircraft will finally offer the new 1-2-1 business-class seats. It’s been a long road, but the end of United’s 2-2-2 seating — and dreadful 2-4-2 business config — is finally near.

Featured image of United’s 787-9 inaugural fight touching down in Cape Town by Frank Du Plessis.

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