Do you frequently use Delta Air Lines (DL) for business travel? United Airlines (UA) wants to poach you. You probably already know that United doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation for business-class offerings if you fly frequently. This is especially true when it comes to the realm of customer service. Delta has used this fact to steal United’s business customers over the years and outperform the competition on nearly all fronts. However, United wants to have its day.
How does United plan to impress business customers? The carrier has actually invested heavily in rebuilding its reputation in recent years. The plan does seem to be working in some ways. United was able to generate strong profit growth in 2018. However, there is a lot more work to be done if United wants to be king of the hill in a highly competitive market. The next phase of United’s big comeback involves expanding its premium seating options to more flights. A big part of accomplishing this goal comes down to the new CRJ550 aircraft that will be introduced into United’s fleet later in 2019. The CRJ550 is a modified version of the CRJ700. It will have 50 seats instead of the conventional 65 to 70 that this model typically has. United plans to bring 50 CRJ550 planes into its fleet during the second half of this year. Here’s the breakdown of how these planes will be configured:
10 first-class seats
20 extra-legroom seats
20 coach seats
What does this mean for the average business traveler flying with United? It will probably be a lot easier to land an upgrade when flying on a route that’s serviced by a CRJ700. The extra space that will result from removing between 15 and 20 seats means that there will be room for self-serve snack stations for passengers flying with first-class tickets. In addition, luggage closets will enable first-class passengers to bring along more carry-on bags.
United’s comeback will also utilize the A319 from Airbus. United is increasing the number of first-class seats on its A319 planes from eight to 12. What’s more, the number of first-class seats on United’s A320 planes will go from 12 to 16. Those numbers might sound familiar. Delta already offers 12 seats on its A319 planes and 16 seats on its A320 planes. Even the Boeing aircraft in United’s fleet will get makeovers. United plans to retrofit 21 of its Boeing 767-300ER planes throughout the next two years. These planes will be updated to include 22 of United’s Premium Plus seats. In addition, the number of lie-flat seats in business class in each plane will jump from 30 to 46.
The idea that United is about to offer many more options for business travelers is exciting. However, a quick glance at the number of planes the airline plans to upgrade makes it clear that a lot of money is being spent. One has to wonder if United can realistically complete all of the upgrades while keeping costs down. It’s possible that the final cost will need to be passed down to the very business travelers United is trying to lure back in.
[Source: United Airlines]