United drops premium service lie-flats from Boston; will it return?

Nov 7, 2020

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There’s no better way to fly domestically than on the transcon from the New York area to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, the Big 3, as well as JetBlue, all offered lie-flat business-class seating on these routes. Plus, premium-cabin flyers could expect multi-course meals, amenity kits, proper bedding and more.

While United’s best product — the “new” Polaris — was reserved for the New York market, transcon routes from Boston to San Francisco also featured lie-flat seating on the single-aisle Boeing 757, along with the aforementioned premium service.

And then the coronavirus came stateside, upending carrier’s schedules. In fact, United temporarily pulled lie-flat seats from both Boston and New York. The Chicago-based carrier was quick to restore its flagship planes to transcons from its Newark hub. But Boston? Not so fast.

Since May, UA has been operating standard narrowbody planes between Boston and SFO — a mix of Airbus A319s and A320s and Boeing 737s, Cirium schedules show.

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If you’re hoping that United restores the premium transcon service to Boston, you’ll need to be (very) patient. The carrier has confirmed to TPG that the return of lie-flats is contingent on seeing an appreciable “uptick in premium demand.”

In a statement, United said:

We will continue to monitor demand trends on this route and anticipate returning premium transcontinental service at some point in the future.

In fact, UA has removed references to the Boston transcon from its dedicated premium transcontinental website. With demand for business travel at record lows, the airline clearly doesn’t see the need to offer an elevated service on this route. Of course, anything could change, but the implication here is that this will likely be a long-term suspension of lie-flat seats from this frequency.

In the meantime, first-class flyers on this route can expect standard recliners, as well as a selection of cold sandwiches and pre-packaged snack boxes once inflight. Since the BOS-SFO route is losing its premium transcon service designation, Premier elites will be eligible for complimentary upgrades.

For now, Cirium schedules show that UA has pulled lie-flats from Boston through Dec. 31, 2020. The carrier plans to fly 237 total flights in the market through the end of the year, exclusively with Boeing 737s.

Though lie-flats are back on the schedule starting in January, United has been making schedule adjustments in roughly six-week increments. As such, it’s only a matter of time before the fancy seats are pulled for the new year.

This all comes as United will be operating a much smaller Boeing 757 fleet going forward. Due to the pandemic, the carrier has retired a subset of these planes — those that used to fly for the pre-merger United. The 11 757-200s were outfitted in a premium-heavy configuration with 28 biz seats. The early retirement leaves United with 40 pre-merger Continental 757s, featuring 12 fewer biz seats.

Fortunately, there’s still a lie-flat option for the five-plus hour flight from Boston to San Francisco. JetBlue has 232 flights scheduled in the market for the last two months of 2020.

The New York-based carrier operates its Mint-equipped Airbus A321 to Boston, sporting 16 business-class seats, four of which are individual suites. JetBlue has mostly restored Mint service to pre-pandemic levels, so flyers can expect tasty meals and Hayward amenity kits.

Hopefully, demand will bounce back faster than expected and United will restore its lie-flats to Boston.

Featured photo by Wikimedia Commons

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