Details Emerge on United’s New 777 Interiors

Well, well. It looks like the long-awaited reconfiguration of United’s 777s has begun and the first airplane United 777 Config Updatewill be 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 desirable up front, unlike today.

I’ve heard from multiple people that the first plane is being reconfigured right now. When it comes out, there will be fewer premium seats and more in the back of the bus. Here’s a comparison versus what’s out there today:

Class New Seats Current Seats
First 8 updated suites 10-12 suites
Business 40 flat beds 45-49 cradle seats
Economy Plus 101-104 seats 77-84 seats
Economy Minus 117 seats 110-115 seats

This looks like a good configuration to me, and it’s roughly what had been discussed before. The increase in Economy Plus seating is a nice bonus, but these aren’t the only changes. I understand that there will now be regular 110 volt power outlets throughout the plane. This is a huge step for United since they have been lagging in the power department for ages. Each seat gets power in First and Business. In the back, there will be two outlets for every three seats, another good reason (on top of general standardization of seats) for having the 3-3-3 configuration.

There will also be new, updated screens throughout the airplane. Up front, it will be full audio/video on demand as is the case on the 767 and 747 today, but in the back, it’s a little less clear. I am holding out hope that there is audio/video on demand and not just looping movies, because that would be insane to install less than the industry standard these days. That being said, I understand that they will be looking at charging for premium movies. So maybe it will have looping channels for free and audio/video on demand will cost. That doesn’t really bother me that much as long as the AVOD option is there. [Update: United confirms that there will be audio/video on demand in all classes and there will be no charge.]

The only bad part about this? The transition. It’s gonna suck. When the configuration changes from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3, people who thought they had aisles could end up in the middle. Families could find themselves separated by the aisle. It could get really ugly, so I’m hoping that they do a good job of keeping these planes on dedicated routes.

I asked United to confirm what I had heard late on Friday, but I still have not received word one way or the other. If I hear back from them, I’ll update it here. [Update: United has now confirmed this. The only thing that’s unclear is whether or not there will be a charge for entertainment in coach.]

[In an unrelated note, I’m experimenting with putting posts up earlier so that you east coast folks can get your fill in the morning. The emails will still be sent at the same time, but my hope is to schedule posts to go live on the site by 7a Eastern. We’ll see how this goes.]

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76 Comments on "Details Emerge on United’s New 777 Interiors"

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Gray
Guest

Wow – so United-esque to even consider installing less-than-industry standard. I’m simply bewildered at the higher-ups who make these types of decisions, that they would even consider such a thing.

Even as United progresses, they still somehow manage to fall behind, in the most impressive fashion.

Oliver
Guest

Gray — how do you know what UA is/was considering? We don’t even know what the config will (ultimately) look like. So I don’t quite understand your need to bash UA here.

Andrew
Guest

I appreciate the earlier posting time for sure!

And totally unrelated, while I can see the 2+5+2 config being appealing to certain people (couples who can snag a “2”, single travelers who grab the outside aisles), it just seems like an awful configuration all in all, and I don’t know why airlines would choose this over the 3+3+3. Being in that row of 5 has to be just miserable.

Chris
Guest

Groups of 3 seats is nothing new so it should not be that much to take in. Most standard narrow bodies have this configuation (737, A320 family, half of DC-9/MD80 aircraft). A goup of 5 seats left the middle seat 2 people from an aisle like the window seat in groups of 3. It somehow felt more confined when all you see is bodies in a row of 5. Should be an improvement.

Claire Walter
Guest

I wonder what these changes are costing this alledgedly cash-strapped airline.

Claire at http://www.travel-babel.com

Jonathan
Guest

Lame! I’ve booked flights on United specifically for the 2-5-2 layout.

Oh well, I can’t say I was a fan of anything beyond the config.

AndrewBW
Guest

I’m surprised at the reactions so far — what is, in any way, desirable about a 5 seat row in the middle? While the 2-seat outside rows are nice, that center row is pure claustrophobia/agoraphobia hell, and I completely agree that somehow that configuration makes a plane seem smaller. I would much rather be in the center seat of a 3-seat row than in seats 2, 3, 4 of a 5-seat row.

David SF eastbay
Member
The 5 seater was only good for a party of 4 or 5 traveling together or a tall person wanting to lay across all 5 seats and sleep. Like back in the days where flights were not full and you could do that. I’ve been that middle person in the 5 seat row when traveling ALONE and didn’t care for it. Funny when I worked for TWA and flew standby, I never got the middle 5 section on the L10 if I was in coach. It was only paying for a ticket on Eastern that I did. But unlike a… Read more »
Ron
Guest

I can understand 3-3-3 on Economy Plus, but for Economy Minus why not go with 3-4-3? Not only does it generate added revenue from packing extra bodies on board, this can also be a product differentiator for E+, enhancing its appeal not only to the tall crowd but also to those who are just a little bit wide at the waist.

David SF eastbay
Member

Well Ron that would not make people happy who need to sit back there with 10 seats. They might as well get rid of first class since most people sitting up there upgrade from a lower cabin or work for company’s with big discount contracts. It’s not very often they see people who actually buy a full priced first class seat I bet.

oldiesfan6479
Guest

>> …but for Economy Minus why not go with 3-4-3? <<

UA may well be leaving itself that option. Note in the chart the "new" center section in coach has no seat "F"…yet.

John B
Guest

As an East Coast reader (Philadelphia area) I am happy about you moving up your posting time. Reading posts and news on the computer prior to work, is like reading the morning paper for me.

As for United, I will miss, having an option of just two seats near the window in economy. By the way, is coach a term of the past now?

Nick Barnard
Member

I’m a west coast reader, and I like having more comments to read through when I get to read this.

Alternately, I might try reading Cranky before I get out of bed.. I’m probably only the second person who would do that every day….

SEAN
Guest

This is a huge step for United since they have been lagging in the power department for ages.

So true, so true.

Each seat gets power in First and Business. In the back, there will be two outlets for every three seats.

And the third seat gets what exactly?

David SF eastbay
Member

Ron, the third seat gets to fight with the other two on who gets to use the outlet if they all want to…..lol

David SF eastbay
Member

whoops I meant to say Sean.

David SF eastbay
Member

So are planes well balanced where they could do 2-4-3? They would still have 9 seats, and this would give more seating options depending on how many in your group. If a DC9/MD80 type aircraft can do 2-3 it would seem a widebody wouldn’t ‘lean’ one way due the extra weight on one side.

Nick Barnard
Member

Weight and balance usually is more concerned with the from the front to the back of the plane. Much less than with side to side on the plane.

Andrew
Guest

Isn’t Air New Zealand going to a 2-4-3 config in their new sky-couch equipped 777’s?

ferrelled
Member

Great idea, David. Sincerely.

stuart
Guest

Very important to note that the UAL 777 upgrades are gonna be super slow-boated….at least right now they are not slated to be done until LATE 2012! That means nearly three years of dramatic difference in premium product on dfferent routes and planes and the guarantee of unplanned for seat changes for reservations made well in advance. Long term good news of course – but horrible during the glacial transition.

doug
Guest

stuart – how do you know the upgrades will take so long? i’ve got a 5/9 flight LAX-LON and was praying biz class upgrades would be done by then…looks like not?

David SF eastbay
Member

It will be kind of funny when the new layout planes start appearing and see how many newlywed couples heading for their honeymoon who thought they would ‘cuddle’ up together on the 2 seat side will find they now have a chaperon in their row…..lol

George R
Guest
I hate to see this this new configuration. The 2-5-2 configuration was a plus for me and one reason I preferred the 777. This new configuration will cause me to look at other carriers with the 2-5-2 configuration, eventhough I believe this old configuration is becoming more rare. The 2-5-2 is perfect for couples since one gets an aisle and another the window. It was also more comfortable for long flights, since there were fewer interruptions for people in the center seat getting ou. The additional of a power outlet is welcome, but not at the price of the 3-3-3.… Read more »
Jason H
Guest

I’m not a fan of this new config, mainly because I like a window seat and only having to climb over 1 person to get to the aisle and like others mentioned it was nice when you are a traveling couple to have that to yourself instead of sharing with a stranger. However, that being said, at least they didn’t go to the KLM 3-4-3. Now THAT is a tightly squeezed aircraft!

Oliver
Guest

Don’t like the fact that they are getting rid of 2-5-2. There used to be one person per row that was two seats away from the aisle. Now there are two (both window seats). And couples can no longer enjoy the two-seat advantage. Another reason for me to try and retain 1K :)

Allan
Guest

United has to put VOD in Economy. It is a giant factor for frequent international travelers who fly coach. I try to fly Emirates as much as possible for two reasons and two reasons alone: (1) free booze in coach and (2) their VOD is amazing. Helps make 13 hours in coach from LAX to Dubai manageable.

robert
Guest

It wasn’t clear whether the power outlets were only for Economy Plus or Economy too? My only concern is whether they are ‘normal’ sockets or ones where you have to buy some expensive special adapter.

BTW I don’t think there will be a problem with two outlets for every three seats. I would be very surprised if all three people had to plug something in (and if so, for the entirity of the flight).

trackback

[…] to get to the aisle — just the one person in the middle of the 5. But now they’re shifting to the more common 3-3-3 after all. (Personally, while it’s been a couple years since […]

Louis Biggie
Guest

I have never quite understood how United can expect to get extra revenue from Economy Plus when they offer the same seats, the same food, and still expect you to pay for drinks. For the extra five inches of leg room, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

Dub at SFO
Guest

When you’re 6′ 3″ it is surely worth it, especially on long flights. =)

Dub at SFO
Guest

Has anyone else noticed that the seat map for the new config has a “K” seat that isn’t present on the old config? If that’s true then either:

1. The aircraft will have to fly dedicated routes, or
2. There will be lots of wailing.

Surely they’re smart enough to know that #2 will never work. =)

Dan
Guest
Cranky, In your “update” you say “United has now confirmed this. The only thing that is unclear is whether or not there will be charges.” You didn’t say what exactly is confirmed. Does United have an AVOD product that you’ve profiled and I missed? I have no idea what “premium movies” are supposed to be. And btw, with E+ and AVOD, UA will now be my carrier of choice to Europe. SE Asia is a different story — with close to 22 hours of flying time from the east coast of the US to the likes of BKK/SIN, I will… Read more »
ferrelled
Member
I am a million-miler on UA, have been a Premier Exec or better for at least 12 years (1k in a few of those) and, excuse the drama, absolutely abhor 3-3-3 configs. One of the things I like about UA’s 777s and Virgin Atlantic’s A340s is the 2-5-2 and 2-4-2 config. Going to 3-3-3 doesn’t change the number of middle seats, it just means that couples now have to share their space and those that used to be able to lean slightly into the aisle or window on the 2-side will now have a person sitting bolt upright between them… Read more »
robert
Guest

Thet should have gone 3.4.3 in economy and improved the yield.

daavery
Guest

3-3-3 saves to cost of 1 IFE control unit per row over 2-5-2. IFE seat boxes can only supply 3 seats so 3-3-3 uses 1 per section and 2-5-2 needs 2 for the middle section.

David SF eastbay
Member
There have been some who have said they should add another seat in each row for a total of 10. Well they would/will do that if it will pay off for them. One added seat to each row means added weight for those seats, plus the extra weight of the people in those seats, plus extra food/drinks, maybe an extra F/A, more people using the toilets (needing more water/TP/soap/etc), etc. All that extra weight means more fuel and money spent which they might not make up in the price of the added fares they could sell. So just because you… Read more »
KZ
Guest

@David SFeastbay
I think it is not so much the weight, they will not really have a problem making up for that with ticket prices, I think the problem is more for the long distance flights where they can’t add more fuel to compensate for the added weight. There are a few routes where it is pushing the published limits of the range of the aircraft, adding another 20-25 people + baggage would not help them.

SF Cruiser
Guest

Hi CF,

Thanks for the info. I’m flying on May 9th from SFO-LHR and used miles to upgrade to Business Class. Do you have any sense when UA will be updating the 777 for the SFO – London route?? It would be nice if this updating were complete by now. I’ve read on their website about the timing in the past (it was supposed to be complete (!) by 2Q10). Thanks for any info you find out.

Pat
Guest

Any idea if United.com accurately reflects whether a given flight’s 777 has been modified to the new seat layout? If I look at the schematic for seat selection and it still shows the old 2-5-2 configuration, can I be certain that the 777 on this flight indeed is still the old configuration?

Dave
Guest

Obviously no perfect configuration!

http://twitpic.com/1huxpa

http://twitpic.com/1huyb9

Flew an Emirates 777 last night, 3-4-3, two-class, approximately 430 passengers!!!! That is a lot of people! UA 777’s have approx. 260 passengers on the intl aircraft and 350 domestic.

I just hope the other 4 seats in my middle section row for my flight tonight from DXB don’t fill-in during the next 6 hours! At 6’2″, 3 seats are just not enough to lay down in. Now 5 across!!

SLWilliams
Guest
Flew United’s 777 from Denver to London on Sunday with new flat bed seats in business. They actually put in a 2-4-2 configuration! I found it awful–cramped, little choice about whether to sit on aisle because there are now fewer aisle seats, and had to face rear. I had booked a business class, forward-facing aisle seat on the old 777 configuration; United “upgraded” to flat beds and I ended up in a rear-facing window seat and was not happy about it. United’s response: “But you have a fully flat bed.” My response: “The seat is so narrow now I HAVE… Read more »
rcx
Guest

I had a chance to travel from SFO to LHR in this new reconfigured 3-3-3 united 777-200ER

Two pictures/ sorry for the poor quality:
comment image

rcx
Guest

Hi CF,

I travelled one way in the old 2-5-2 and in the news 3-3-3 the way back.
I Didn’t notice any seats improvement but the new larger “touchscreen” is much better than the old one. Better resolution; better colors and contrast …. etc.

I noticed also that first class has now massive screens of at least 19 inches !!!

Steve Weagant
Guest

When will this 3-3-3 seating show up on ua 1 and 2

Jonathan
Guest

Very annoying. I booked my flight early and was able to choose a bulkhead seat in economy plus. I just checked and I’ve been moved, and now the bulkhead seats are all taken. They could have at least informed people their seats were changing!

Richard Eckman
Guest

I flew on the new configuration on 29 August from IAD to LHR. I didn’t learn of the change until boarding. My wife and I had thought that we were in the exit row (30A and B), but found ourselves more forward in Economy Plus. At least, they switched me from seat B to the aisle (C), but that separated my wife and I for the duration of the flight. I wish that I had learned about the switch earlier, but the gate agent said that this was a sudden equipment change.

Richard Eckman
Guest

I meant to mention that the seats on the new configuration seem slightly more comfortable to me. The video system is much improved, with a small selection of movies and TV. Additional choices are available by swiping your credit card for a $10 fee. I didn’t try this. One negative to the new configuration: there are fewer bathrooms on the plane, at least the center section between economy plus. There used to be four bathrooms; now there are only two, which led to frequent, large queues. Seems like a poor plan to reduce the number of bathrooms.

ana w
Guest

absolute rubbish, they have taken away a load of business seats and put more economy in. now 1k like me cannot get a sodding upgrade. thanks united. really, massive thanks.

JerryK
Guest

Can anyone report on the first row of E+, the only deuces in the new config? Is there extra legroom? Bulkhead cutout?

Marco
Guest
The 3-3-3 configuration is terrible and has always been a scam promoted by Boeing. The look of 5 seats in a row frightens the novice flier. It makes sense for charters and carriers who do not allow assigned seats to have this set up. They claim that this way you do not have to get stuck in the middle of the 5 seat line. And if seating was randomly assigned, I would not want to get stuck in the middle of 5 either. But this is not a good way to look at it. Most frequent flyers fly alone and… Read more »
JerryK
Guest

Unless I’m missing something, the 3-3-3 config offers those who like aisle seats a better option than the current config. There are still two rows of seats, in the center section now, where only one person will need to cross over the aisle seat to exit, but because the center passenger can exit either side, the chances are reduced 50 percent. Seems like a winner to me.

However, I liked the old config better because I’m most often booking for two, and the new config is not couple friendly.

Marco
Guest
In the 3-3-3 config, the center section does become the preferred section, but on the plane there will be more people who will have to cross over 2 seats to reach the aisle and more situations where 2 people have to get up to let someone out. On the 2-5-2, only when the center of the 5 section is filled are two people forced to get up and that person can exit on either side. With the 3-3-3, every person at the window will force 2 people to get up when exiting, and the window seats are always filled. And… Read more »
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 fans of the unworkable 2-5-2 seating configuration on a 777. 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 »
Dub at SFO
Guest

Bud, I respect your viewpoint but I’m not sure I share your opinion that on 2-5-2 there are three profoundly unhappy people. I think there will only be one profoundly unhappy person. That will be the person in the inner middle (3rd) seat. The people in the 2nd and 5rd seat will have the same experience as someone in the middle seat in the 3-3-3 config. They will have someone on either side of them and they will be one seat away from the aisle.

Marco
Guest
I am only posting again because of the arrogant tone of the last person. Not the kind of post you generally see here. I am not sure that this was posted by an adult, so if this was a child, I guess that it is understandable. Actually it does matter how many people you are climbing over, and the center of the 5 seat section is the seat most often left open. This is by design and part of the seat selection software. When United Airlines and Boeing developed the plane, the 2-5-2 configuration was the one most frequent flyers… Read more »
Bud Chisam
Guest
Goodness gracious! You all truly are a bunch of cranky fliers!! I am so sorry that my tongue-in-cheek comment (and my first post here) came across as arrogant. But really now–I counted five pretty direct insults in that disturbing thing just above. But….I just returned from an SFO-LHR-SFO trip where both legs were on the newly configured 777, and to pass the time I politely polled passengers and pilots alike, as well as those power-mongering policewomen in pumps that populated this positively Premium plane. Well take a guess as to the who turned out to be the only PROFOUNDLY miserable… Read more »
Alma
Guest
I just flew this plane from London to San Francisco. I was in the very front of economy plus on the side with only 2 seats in our row. The new seats are more comfortable. The movies are on demand, but the free ones are limited as compared to Lufthansa. The “premium” services cost $10, which seems excessive and are all movies out on DVD. The bigest drawback is the reduction of toilets. There are now only four, which is not sufficient. Not only does one always have to wait in line as they are in non stop use, they… Read more »
Jerry K
Guest
Just flew the new 777 config NRT-LAX E+. The seats are comfortable but not as deep, probably because seats now move forward to create the seat back tilt. The head rests I found more comfortable. The “free” movies no longer loop, but are viewable on demand with DVR features, like pause, fast rewind/forward and restart. The screens are larger than the previous ones and 16:9 formatted. Also, the video system is touch-screen operated and the sound is stereo. I found it an improvement over the previous, “looping” system. Didn’t try out the premium services. You can swipe your card in… Read more »
Terri
Guest

How can I find out if the 777 I’m flying from SFO to FRA is one with the new configuration? I’m flying business class and am very interested to find out if the seats are the newer “flat lying” seats, which i’ve read are not really even flat, but angled. Also heard that they are now narrower, so really hard to get comfortable for an 11 hour overnight flight. Can anyone help? thanks.

Dub at SFO
Guest

United new-configuration business seats are indeed completely flat, the angled seats are on American.

You can check unitedcargo.com to find out the configuration of a 777 on a particular flight on a particular dat.

Dodson
Guest

With the new 777 configuration, this question relates to seats 20A, B, J, K (all four bulkheads), and 21C, H: is there IFE for those seats?

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