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

Nov 7, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airline-specific news!

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

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.