United will restore lie-flat seats to its premium transcon flights

May 28, 2020

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The competition on premium transcontinental routes is fierce. Each major U.S. carrier puts its best planes on these domestic coast-to-coast hops from the New York area to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

Before the coronavirus pandemic, United was operating a mix of Boeing 757s, 777s and 787 Dreamliners, including the 787-10 from Newark (EWR) to LAX and SFO. But then, following the massive drop in demand at the end of April, the Chicago-based carrier had a strategy shift. It decided to replace the lie-flat equipped 757s with more fuel-efficient Boeing 737s that sported recliners up front.

Now, with its latest schedule update, United is once again returning the Boeing 757 to these premium transcon routes. This means that the carrier will offer lie-flat business-class seats on (nearly) every single frequency.

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Per United:

Due to the demand changes from COVID-19, we’ve been making adjustments to our fleet and frequencies over the last few months and into summer on our EWR-LAX and EWR-SFO transcon routes. In June, we’ll be flying a mix of 757, 767 and 787 aircraft on these routes. While our July schedule is not yet published, we expect a similar mix for that month as well.

Taking a closer look at the June schedule reveals that Newark to Los Angeles will be flown three times a day, split across the 757, 767 and 787-10. On Saturdays, the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner is replaced with a 737, presumably since there’s not as much demand on one of the slowest travel days of the week.

Polaris on the Boeing 787-10 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Interestingly, June 2020 will also be one of the first times that the 767 is consistently scheduled to fly these transcon routes. This plane has a Polaris and non-Polaris configuration, with the former being much more comfortable — and private — for those sitting in the pointy end of the plane. Also, coach is arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, which is great for couples traveling together who want to avoid sitting next to a stranger.

With most of the 767s already retrofitted with the new Polaris seats, there’s a good chance that those flying on this jet will experience UA’s newest product.

Newark to San Francisco will be operated exclusively using the Boeing 757 and 787-10. Unfortunately, the 757 isn’t the premium-heavy 28 biz seat version that used to operate most of these routes. (That subfleet is currently parked in long-term storage.) Rather, it’s the legacy Continental version with just 16 biz seats, which is still a nice upgrade from the Boeing 737s that flew in May.

2-2 lie-flat biz on the United Boeing 757 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Biz fares start at roughly $500 for the one-way flight, much lower than those before the coronavirus pandemic. While the fares are reasonable, award and upgrade space is limited. If you do plan to fly the route, note that the inflight service will also be limited. Departure lounges are mostly closed and food offerings won’t be as exhaustive as you might normally expect.

Of the other major U.S. carriers, American Airlines has resumed flying its most premier domestic route from New York to LAX as of May 7, using its swanky Airbus A321T that features a first, business and coach cabin. Delta’s premium transcon offerings include lie-flat seats on its frequencies from New York-JFK to LAX and SFO. Meanwhile, JetBlue has continued to offer lie-flat Mint service from New York to LAX and SFO throughout the pandemic.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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