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Surprise: United is upgrading an unlikely Florida route with its fanciest jet

Sept. 09, 2021
4 min read
Surprise: United is upgrading an unlikely Florida route with its fanciest jet
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Update 9/26/21: United has removed the "high-J" Boeing 767 from the Newark (EWR) to Orlando (MCO) route, and it remains unclear if it will return to the market.


If you were asked to list the most premium domestic airline routes, odds are that service to Orlando wouldn't make the cut.

Home to Disney World, Universal Studios and other family-friendly attractions, Orlando isn't necessarily known for drawing an outsized proportion of business and deep-pocketed leisure flyers. In fact, the city's airport is a hub for multiple low-cost carriers, including Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit, which largely cater to families and budget-seeking customers.

Yet, United Airlines is making a surprising move this winter: It'll send its fanciest jet, the "high-J" Boeing 767-300, on two daily flights between Newark (EWR) and Orlando (MCO), from Oct. 31 through Dec. 15, according to Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the airline. (Note that schedules could change depending on the course of the pandemic.)

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Inside the "high-J" 767, you'll find a whopping 46 business-class pods, 22 premium economy recliners and 99 coach seats, representing a massive upgrade for flyers headed to Orlando. The Polaris cabin features individual lie-flat pods in a 1-1-1 configuration, and the Premium Plus cabin is being marketed as extra-legroom Economy Plus, giving flyers a relatively inexpensive way to score lots more additional space for a modest upcharge.

This configuration first launched back in 2019, and it was designed to fly some of the strongest business-focused routes, such as Newark and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to London-Heathrow (LHR).

With a higher percentage of premium-cabin seats, United's goal was to capture as much business demand as it could. Of course, the pandemic has cut much of that demand, leaving United with spare 767s to deploy on other routes.

16 rows of biz on the United "high-J" 767 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In the last year, the Chicago-based airline has sent its poshest plane on some flagship domestic missions, including one of its new Hawaii routes, from Newark (EWR) to Maui (OGG), and from San Francisco (SFO) to both Honolulu (HNL) and Maui, among others.

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Additionally, when the airline returned to New York-JFK in March, it made a splashy relaunch with two routes (to Los Angeles and San Francisco) aboard the "high-J" 767.

But now, United is rethinking its aircraft strategy. Last week, the airline removed the jet from its JFK schedules in favor of the much less premium Boeing 757-200 that features just 30 fewer biz seats and no premium economy cabin.

Then this week, UA upgauged the Newark to Orlando route with the "high-J" 767. According to United's explanation, the plane has downtime between international flights, so it's going to fly to Orlando in between.

While the move might seem puzzling, United is seemingly following in the footsteps of its Big 3 competitors. Throughout the pandemic, American Airlines has flown a wide-body jet on select frequencies between Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami to Orlando. Delta has done the same from its Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City hubs. But none of the AA or Delta jets offer such a high percentage of premium-cabin seats as you'll find on United's swanky 767.

United's "high-J" 767 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

So, it'll be interesting to see if United can command a revenue premium for its fancy plane. In 2019, the average airfare between Newark and Orlando was about $150, according to Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium.

Of course, there could be other factors at play in United's fleet strategy, but one thing is for certain: If you're headed to Orlando, flying United from Newark will offer the fanciest experience.

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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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
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023