United 777 Premium Reconfiguration Requiring Changes in Coach?

Ever wonder why United is (finally) working hard to upgrade the 767 and 747 aircraft with the new premium cabin seats, but the 777 is left behind? It appears, that of all things, it’s a problem in coach that’s keeping them from getting it done. The fix is going to end up changing the coach configuration on the airplane, and while it will cost the airline a fair chunk of change, it won’t really benefit coach passengers much at all.

According to sources, the new inflight entertainment system that’s being installed as part of the premium cabin makeover is incompatible with the old screens in coach. This obviously wouldn’t impact the 747 since it has no screens in coach, but it apparently doesn’t impact the 767 either. So, United now needs to fix the coach screens on the 777, and that apparently requires new seats. That obviously means it will cost money, so it’s no surprise that United is de-emphasizing the 777 project in favor of the 767 and 747 one right now.

As part of this project, I’m told that United will actually be changing the configuration in coach on the 777s from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3. I’m not sure why this change is happening, but I wonder if it has to do with how many screens each box can power. If each box can power 3 screens, then a 3-3-3 configuration would need 3 boxes per row while 2-5-2 would need 4 boxes (assuming they can’t reach across the aisle). This would certainly make the configuration change worthwhile.

United 777 Config

But that’s speculation. If anyone knows why this change is being done, please let me know. Assuming this information is accurate, it’s going to once again mean a painful transition for United customers in coach. I assume it’s a safe bet that they won’t dedicate certain configurations to a single route. (Though they’re trying to do it now, it’s far from a guarantee.) So while the change is happening, if you booked a B seat on one plane thinking you had an aisle, you might end up with a middle seat. On the other hand, if you booked a D seat thinking you have a middle, you might be rewarded with an aisle.

On top of all this, I think it’s safe to assume that the domestic 777 fleet which has no international premium product or in seat video, probably won’t change at all. If those are all isolated to the Hawai’i and domestic routes they’re intended to fly, it’s not a huge problem but it still adds to the confusion.

What’s the worst part of all this? There won’t be any material changes for coach passengers, as far as I can see. This won’t bring video on demand or anything like that into coach. It will simply be a costly infrastructure upgrade to allow for video on demand up front.

If anyone has further information about this, hit the comments.

[There is now an updated post with info that United will have on demand in coach.]

Get Posts via Email When They Go Live or in a Weekly Digest

Leave a Reply

44 Comments on "United 777 Premium Reconfiguration Requiring Changes in Coach?"

avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
erik
Guest

From the posts on Flyertalk and Airliners.net that I’ve read, the video reconfig seems to be the sticking point for 777 coach on United and you’ve summarized all the available info I’ve seen.

james
Guest

From a coach traveler’s perspective that sucks.

I love those two seat rows on the 777 and 767s – especially on long flights (Europe and such.) It means that if you travel with your other half or a friend you have one tiny row with each other. And on long flights it means one less person bumping in and out past you if you’re in the aisle.

Jeff K
Guest

Agree with James, the 2 seat rows on the 777 make coach a much nicer ride then 3-3-3 (well, along with the geek factor of being on a 777 domestically). But are the 767’s also going 3 seats on the sides? Is that possible?

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
The singular benefit to 3-3-3 is on the rare occasion of having a row to yourself and having a 60″ bed for the duration of a longhaul flight. That’s three beds per row instead of just one dog in the manger sprawled across five seats in the middle. Even for couples, three seats to yourself gives you more room to stretch out if the center seat stays empty. All the same, again I’m confused over the fuss of not having inseat video on long haul flights. I use it when its available almost exclusively for the AirMap but who stares… Read more »
Doug Swalen
Guest

I disagree about scrapping the IFE. Not everyone wants to take a mess of electronic junk with them on their vacation. As it is I’m already bringing one still digital camera and one DV video camera so I want to minimize more electronic carry ons. And your mileage may vary but IPods are too dang small to watch anything on for extended periods of time. I prefer having some sort of video distraction that I can leave on the plane (and not have to shlep through an airport and past the TSA)

Doug Swalen
Guest

And yeah…going from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3 sucks. But since i mainly fly United 777s to Hawaii, I guess I’ll be dodging that bullet.

Mark Ashley
Guest

I suppose that aisle-seat aficionados who want to assure themselves of that aisle seat will need to choose the C or G seat — though it will vary from aisle-on-left to aisle-on-right according to configuration.

Too bad re: the disappearance of the 2-5-2. I know that you were bumming if you were in the E seat, but 2-5-2 meant that only 1 person per row would have to climb over two other passengers to reach the aisle. Now, 2 people per row (both window seats) will have that pleasure.

Eric
Guest

More UAL “lets confuse the hell out of our customers” brilliance at its best. It is the only airline I know of that requires due diligence to purchase a ticket or pick a freakin seat. (am I on a Bus or a TED bus? Is it a mainline paint with TED seats or TED paint with mainline F seats? Is it the Intl 777 config on a domestic run or a domestic config on an international run?)

Lawdy..where does it end??

Oliver
Guest

It would almost seem easier/cheaper if they kept the existing seats and IFE for coach and had a separate system for C/F.

And yeah, those plane swaps will be a LOT of fun for a lot of people.

Enduring Wanderlust
Guest

Note to self. Don’t book flight on United’s 777 fleet in the coming months.

A
Guest

I too despise carrying loads of crap on board for my own “entertainment.” Just more stuff to potentially get lost or broken. I think all the hype about IFE for domestic short run flights under 3 hours is somewhat stupid, but for long haul the systems are nice. Not like I’d ever consider taking United “across the pond” but for how often I take one of those flights (not often) I do research things like the on-board product.

Bobber
Guest
I support TTO’s suggestion – laptop power in coach would be a considerable improvement (I thought AA and Virgin had it on some of their fleet?). Cranky, I hadn’t heard about the IFE causing a problem, but had heard that the forward/backward seat configuration in C class was going to cause a space issue? Anyway, for my next trip, I was surprised that United let me upgrade from coach (reduced fare seat, not Y) with miles and confirmed the upgrade immediately. As I’m taking the early LHR-IAD flight it’s a 767, so the choice now (any suggestions anyone!) is forward… Read more »
Oliver
Guest
@Bobber — I deliberately chose the backward facing seat on the UD of the 747 recently because I wanted to see what it was like (any joho can fly forward-facing, after all). It was fine. During take-off you are leaning a bit forward and the magazines starting sliding out of the storage area between the seats, but it was a fun experience none the less. I booked it again for next year and certainly isn’t something I’d be concerned about. On the IFE, I always bring my own. People bring a book (instead of borring the People magazine from the… Read more »
Bobber
Guest
Cheers, Oliver – will change my selection! I’ve flown rear-facing in RAF transports (a VC10!) when I was a naive air cadet years ago – argument being you’ve got a better chance of surviving a crash (with the ground!) because you’re more likely to be pushed back in your seat. Don’t really need to test this hypothesis though. The switch from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3 would put UA in line with the rest of the 777 flying airlines, I would have thought. Personally, I prefer 2-5-2, but that’s only because I can almost always guarantee getting a seat on the side.… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
Doug – You are correct in wanting to carry less through TSA. Last time I flew I took up four trays alone just in shoes, laptop, pocket junk (cell phone, iPod and and jacket. If they’d taken my belt it might have been five! All that plus the computer bag and the carry-on. Yeesh! At the same time, I was able to enjoy “300” and “Shawshank Redemption” on the flight home, one movie not likely to have much story left after the airlines finish editing the thing and the other long past onboard circulation instead of the tame and lame… Read more »
Randy
Guest
I always wonder why airlines don’t go to a 2-4-3 configuration in coach on a 777 and the 747. Couples could go for the two, a family of four could go for the middle 4, and randoms or maybe the single child parents could for for the 3 row. This is how Air New Zealand originally configured their 747-100’s and how they are looking to do their 787’s. I recently flew DL with VOD cross country, and this was far better than the overhead screens that CO had coming back. VOD is a major benefit to coach passengers, but UA… Read more »
scott.wintner
Member
Actually, the 3-3-3 configuration has become pretty standard across 777s industry-wide. As far as I know, only UA, AA & MH operate 2-5-2 777s… although AF has introduced a (gasp!) 3-4-3 configuration on its newer 777-300ERs. As to why, I cannot say for sure… although Cranky’s theory about power distribution to in-seat IFE sounds very logical. I will say that when CO introduced the 3-3-3, the ostensible reason was for passenger comfort… so that no seat was more than one away from an aisle. Frankly, while I’d much prefer to sit in the “2” side section… heaven forbid I end… Read more »
Joe
Guest

I just got back from Australia on united, was travelling as NRSA, so was business down but economy plus back. Can anyone explain why United has chosen not to put on demand in coach? Is it really that expensive? It makes such a difference on a 15 hour flight, people will pay for it.

Oliver
Guest

@Joe — how do you know that people will pay for it? Do you have statistics that show that UA economy is empty to Australia while Qantas is packed? I am sure there are some people who’d pay a bit more, but there are probably also plenty who’d pick the cheaper carrier even if it just saves a few bucks. For me, E+ is much more important that VOD. As I keep saying in threads like this: I can bring my own entertainment, but I can’t bring my own leg room.

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
For those who don’t know, “NRSA” is United-speak for “Non-Revenue, Space Available,” otherwise known as employee or “buddy” pass riders who do not pay much more than the taxes levied to fly their employing airline. Joe may have a point in this fee-crazy environment that airlines who haven’t already will find a way to charge for VOD. It’s one more reason I agree with Oliver and respectfully disagree with Doug – for a long vacation in a foreign country involving extreme flight times (Australia, South Africa, India, etc), I’ll bring my own. It’ll pass the time in the air and… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Random Geek Minutiae “Inflight WiFi will truly make all the World of Warcraft fans rejoice.” Probably not. Inflight internet will have latencies that are too high for game playing, not to mention that the bandwidth probably won’t be that great.

On topic: What another brilliant move by United. Can they hurry it up and file Chapter 7, e.g. Management doesn’t know what they’re doing.

And I vote for 2-4-3, it seems to be the best option all around, assuming your VOD system won’t have a 33% price increase.

Benji
Guest

Sounds like a silly change, I mean insofar as they’re redoing coach just to upgrade business IFE. That said, I HATE the 2-5-2 config, so 3-3-3 or even 3-4-3 is an upgrade to me.

Aircraft Lover
Guest

I just wanted to show my support with the commenters!
those 2 seats rows on the aircraft makes it much more comfortable.

thanks.

daren_siddall
Member

I agree that as a window seat fan the 2-5-2 config is much better. BA has always had the 3-3-3 config and it has it advantages and disadvantages. I suppose if you find that you really miss this set up then just make sure you choose an airline that flies A330/A340s as they are always 2-4-2, though with only NW and US to choose from among the US carriers, it’s a bit restrictive!

SG
Guest
OK, folks, this is what happened and why: 1. In order to take advantage of existing design and certification efforts, UA opted to switch over to the 3-3-3 arrangement. UA and AA are the only 777 carriers that operate 2-5-2. Since no quint seats had ever been developed, the retrofit schedule would have been much worse. Additionally, due to basic physics, the testing risk for the 5x seat assembly was still a major concern. 2. The monitor change was driven by the 777 Cabin Management System, which was wired based on an old platform. All IFE systems are designed to… Read more »
mre5765
Guest
I started a thread on this topic in the FT United forum ( http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-mileage-plus/907041-3-class-777-re-configured-3-3-3-e.html ), and the consensus so far is: – 2 – 5 – 2 is staying. The maps UA has published for new 777 config say 2-5-2. Granted these maps were published in 2007, and I note that suitedreams.united.com does say that maps for 777 won’t be available till fall. – the hold up is verifying the crash worthiness of the new seats (seats in economy with a larger LCD that are lighter, and thus different from the new 767 and 747 seats) – AVOD for economy… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
I can’t see any airline ever going to 2-4-3 if the cabin will support 3-4-3. Do we as customers care? For the sake of comfort, yes! Do the airlines care? For the sake of additional seat revenue, not a bit. On a 747 that one seat per row can mean 50 additional customers per flight to spread operating costs and margin over. Be glad they haven’t figured out how to make 3-5-3 work! Geek rejoinder: I don’t play video games so I defer to Mr. Barnard’s assessment regarding bandwidth. I can see where games like Warcraft would overwhelm a minimalist… Read more »
mre5765
Guest

> I can’t see any airline ever going to 2-4-3 if the cabin will support 3-4-3. Do we as customers care? For the sake of comfort, yes! Do the airlines care? For the sake of additional seat revenue, not a bit.

That plane has 3-3-3 and 2-5-2 (i.e. 10 seats across). Do you know of an airline that configures 11 seats (3 + 4 + 3) on that plane? It seems like that only way to do 11 seats would be with a singe aisle, 5-6, and I suspect that violates safety regulations.

Doug Swalen
Guest
“It’s one more reason I agree with Oliver and respectfully disagree with Doug – for a long vacation in a foreign country involving extreme flight times (Australia, South Africa, India, etc), I’ll bring my own.” I guess it all depends on where you travel to. My destinations tend to revolve around diving so the destinations tend to have more rain issues. More rain issues = the need to keep electronic equipment to a minimum. I do have a portable DVD player and I’ve considered taking it on a flight but when you’re up against baggage restrictions for carry ons and… Read more »
SG
Guest

In response to mre5765’s comments:

1. 3-3-3 IS HAPPENING. 2-5-2 will remain for the 2 class 777s.

2. AVOD IS GOING TO HAPPEN. The monitors are being outfitted with
credit card readers.

UA mechanics are rarely good sources for product changes.

mre5765
Guest

> mre5765 – Actually, there are airlines out there doing the 3-4-3 config. Emirates was the first that I know of, and Air France has started to configure some that way as well.

Looking at seatguru I see you are correct.

I’m puzzled by the math though. 3-4-3 => 10 * 17 inches = 170 inches.
3-3-3 or 2-5-2 => 9 * 18 = 162 inches. Where is United putting the 8 missing inches?

> UA mechanics are rarely good sources for product changes.

That’s pretty scary if it is true.

SG
Guest

Mechanics are not involved in cabin product development. Ever. Nothing scary about it. Their job is to maintain, not design. Maintainability is always a concern, but it is not a determining factor in whether IFE is offered or not, etc.

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
Agreed with SG. Mechanics are THE source if something is mechanically sound or prone to constant, cost ineffective repairs. Otherwise, HQ makes all the decisions on what to buy, what to fly and what to try in terms of aircraft and onboard product. 3-5-3 is not in the market. 11 seats across is not possible simply because the largest widebodies, the 747, 777 and A380 aren’t wide enough so long as the standard coach seat is 17-18 inches in width. 10 across was shocking 40 years ago, standard now in the larger birds. If the seat shrinks (please, God, no!)… Read more »
Oliver
Guest
@Doug — the successor of my Cowon A2 (the A3 — http://www.laptopmag.com/review/mp3/cowon-a3.aspx) weights in at a whopping 9.9 ounces and easily fits into my carry-on. The Bose headset is the thing that concerns me most as far as space is concerned, but I just love the peace and quiet it gives me on long flights and I can’t stand in-ear buds. Even after I reach my destination, my PMP comes in handy as I can hook it up to my hotel’s TV and watch something other than CNN International or BBC (I had the same experience as The Traveling Optimist,… Read more »
mre5765
Guest
> Agreed with SG. Mechanics are THE source if something is mechanically sound or prone to constant, cost ineffective repairs. Otherwise, HQ makes all the decisions on what to buy, what to fly and what to try in terms of aircraft and onboard product. And of course there’s no need to train mechanics in advance on how to service upcoming products; just teach them as problems show up. > 3-5-3 is not in the market. Where did I say 3-5-3? I’m asking a math question 2-5-2/3-3-3 is 162 inches @ 18 inch seats, 3-4-3 is 170 inches. What does UA… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
Mechanics do receive advance training in two ways prior to product release. Training from the manufacturer on how maintenance and upkeep plus hands-on experience in the hangars prior to service introduction. The nature of their training, however, is most often trickle-down since there is so many of them and often only one plane at a time being rolled out with the new stuff. With phased roll outs and closed loop service patterns (i.e. EWR-LHR only) until more of the fleet is reconfigured, the mechanic in IAD may seem like he hasn’t a clue but will at least have received the… Read more »
Nadia
Guest

I totally with SG and since we are in the topic of aircraft. Anyone know about whether there are any jobs opening? Ever since I got laid off, I might want to consider a switch to becoming a stewardess. I saw a few post at http://jobstaxi.com
Pls advice further.

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist
Nadia – My first impulse was to shout loudly “STAY AWAAAY!” I’m not convinced at all the airlines have hit bottom in this economy. With fuel prices starting to creep up it will only make them more anxious. My second thought is to be selective about which company or side of the business to target and flexible in your thoughts regarding possible relocation. The perception at United is that the ax is still swinging nor is American done in reducing heads by some 7,000. At the same time, Southwest always seems to be hiring. You may also consider offering your… Read more »
Randy
Guest
Air New Zealand did 2-4-3 on their 747-100’s and are considering the same configuration on the 787’s. If an airline stayed with 9 across on the 777, 2-4-3 offers a lot of benefits to customers, but the crash safety testing does bring up a cost and time factor. There are no 4 across seats in the right width for 9 across seating. As far as AVOD, most major US carriers except DL (only to a lesser degree,) lag far behind foreign carriers in all cabins, particularly coach. But that is price vs. amenities. I wonder how Air Asia X will… Read more »
trackback

[…] put into service very soon. As I mentioned more than a year ago (to a healthy does of skepticism), these planes are coming out with a 3-3-3 configuration in economy instead of the 2-5-2 they have today. Once these planes are done, then the 777 will once again be […]

Bud Chisam
Guest
As a lifelong flight fanatic who memorized OAG schedules instead of baseball stats when I was a kid. I must respectfully, but forcefully disagree with the well intentioned by spoon-fed fans of the unworkable 2-5-2 777 seating configuration. There is no other plane configuration offering a greater guarantee that an unpleasant experience awaits. So great, that I purposefully avoid flying the magnificent powerhouse that is the 777. And just as determinedly as I would avoid contact with the airline equivalent of an untouchable-caste–the DC-9/MD-80/717. Here’s why: #1–Those two-seats together on the sides may be nice for couples, but they are… Read more »
wpDiscuz