Well, well. It looks like the long-awaited reconfiguration of United’s 777s has begun and the first airplane will 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.]