United follows Delta’s lead, removes all-coach jets from NYC routes

Jul 13, 2021

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If the New York City area is in your travel plans, your flight might’ve just been upgraded.

Over the weekend, United made good on its promise to remove its smallest jets from nearly all of its New York City routes. Beginning in late October, you won’t find a single-cabin regional aircraft flying from United’s Newark hub, as seen in Cirium timetables and later confirmed by the airline.

United’s move follows on the heels of Delta making a similar adjustment to its New York City strategy.

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In recent years, the Atlanta-based airline has been swapping its all-economy regional jets in favor of larger planes with a dedicated first-class cabin in LaGuardia, JFK and Newark. That culminated over the Fourth of July weekend when Delta removed the last of its single-cabin jets, the CRJ200, from JFK.

Delta CRJ700 (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Delta’s LaGuardia hub hasn’t been served by an all-economy plane since April 2020, and Newark hasn’t seen one since June 2018, according to Cirium schedules.

For United, beefing up its New York area presence means that it’s removing the Embraer 145 (E145), a 50-seat regional jet outfitted in a 1-2 coach configuration with just six extra-legroom Economy Plus seats.

Instead of the E145, United’s swapping in the CRJ550, a re-certified variant of the Bombardier CRJ700 that’s outfitted in a posh 50-seat, two-cabin configuration, with a walk-up bar for first-class passengers and two large onboard closets to store full-sized carry-on bags.

Though both the E145 and CRJ550 feature the same number of seats, the latter is outfitted in a premium heavy configuration — 10 first-class recliners, 20 extra-legroom coach seats and 20 standard economy seats — in a much larger and more comfortable airframe.

It’s worth noting that while United is completely removing single-cabin jets from Newark, it still has some of these planes on its schedule for its LaGuardia-Washington/Dulles (IAD) route.

According to United spokesperson Robert Einhorn, this is part of a larger plan to boost Newark flying, as shared in the following statement:

United expects to resume its full schedule of flights out of Newark by November 2021 when the FAA slot waiver period ends. The airline is already the leading carrier from Newark — United’s largest global gateway — with 430 daily flights scheduled. In flying the full schedule, United plans to eliminate smaller, single-class regional jets and expects 100% of Newark departures to be on dual-class aircraft, including the 737 MAX and the airline’s new, dual-class 50-seat CRJ-550 jet maximizing customer choice and comfort.

Delta did not comment on its upgauge in New York.

In recent months, the Big 3 U.S. airlines have talked about retiring their all-economy regional jets, and now they’re following through.

In September 2020, Delta announced that it would retire all CRJ200s — its only all-coach regional jet — by December 2023. United, on the other hand, recently unveiled its plans to retire more than 200 single-cabin planes by 2026 as part of its “United Next” strategy.

American Airlines has been making significant progress on sending these planes to the boneyard as well. In April 2020, AA retired the CRJ200, along with four other aircraft types. Just this May, the Fort Worth-based carrier bid farewell to the Embraer 140, leaving the E145 as the carrier’s only all-coach jet.

As the major U.S. carriers retire the single-cabin planes, the first major market to benefit from the upgauge has been New York.

When American Airlines and JetBlue announced their industry-jolting Northeast Alliance, one of the core selling points was that it would result in upgrading all New York City-area routes with larger planes equipped with first-class cabins.

Now, Delta and United are following in AA’s footsteps.

Travelers are ultimately the winners: if you’re flying through New York, expect larger planes with dedicated first-class cabins.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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