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Here's why United Airlines just added over 350,000 seats to its schedule

May 11, 2021
3 min read
Here's why United Airlines just added over 350,000 seats to its schedule
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United Airlines just added more than a quarter-million seats to its schedule, and the reason why might surprise you.

No, the Chicago-based airline isn't taking delivery of new planes, nor is it cramming new seats into a super-dense configuration. Instead, United's adding back seats it removed from its regional jets late last year.

Specifically, the carrier's Embraer 175 regional jet was reconfigured into a 70-seat arrangement to satisfy a "scope clause" with its pilots last year. Traditionally, mainline pilots who fly the carrier’s larger jets don’t want United outsourcing flying to cheaper, regional affiliates. That was especially true during the height of the pandemic when United and its competitors were looking to both cut costs and trim capacity to meet demand.

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To satisfy this "scope clause," United was forced to reconfigure its Embraer 175 regional jets with six fewer seats, from a 76- to a 70-seat configuration.

But now that United is reactivating many parked planes and flying a domestic schedule nearly 70% of 2019 levels, the carrier can add the seats back to its E175s.

When United removed the seats, it told TPG that these jets could revert back to the larger configuration “when the letter of agreement [with ALPA] ends in October 2022 or when pilot’s monthly hours are no longer reduced through the letter of agreement.”

Now that the mainline pilots are flying again at near pre-pandemic levels, the carrier can add back the six seats. In a statement, a carrier spokesperson shared that,

Starting April 30, our United Express partners began re-installing the six seats on Embraer 175 aircraft that had been temporarily removed last year in accordance with the contractual agreement reached between United and ALPA. The first 76-seat configured E175 aircraft began flying on May 1 and we expect the entire fleet to be completed in early June.

Capt. Todd Insler, pilot union leader for Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), told TPG that "United pilots are pleased our groundbreaking recovery agreement was successful and has positioned us to where we can not only return to our 2019 numbers, but continue to grow."

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Despite adding six more seats, there won't be any passenger-facing implications. United confirmed to TPG in January that legroom and seat pitch weren't changing during the reconfiguration process.

The 76-seat Embraer 175s sport 12 first-class recliners, 16 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats and 48 standard coach seats.

United's Embraer 175 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United Express affiliates Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways and SkyWest Airlines operate 196 Embraer 175s (E175), according to Cirium fleet data.

This isn’t the first time United purposely removed seats from a regional aircraft. In 2019, United unveiled the CRJ550, a re-certified variant of the Bombardier CRJ700.

Due to caps on the number of large regional jets — typically those with 65 to 76 seats — in its pilot contracts, United took the CRJ700 airframe and outfitted it with 50 seats in a two-cabin configuration, with a walk-up bar for first-class passengers and two large onboard closets to store full-sized carry-on bags.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees