Premium Service on United Airlines: Two Classes of Service Instead of Three
It seemed like only yesterday that United Airlines attempted to bring back the golden age of domestic air travel in the United States when it announced its new premium service — or p.s. — back in 2004 on its transcontinental flights between New York and either San Francisco or Los Angeles, complete with three classes of service, meal service and plenty of room for all passengers in all cabins, and all seats equipped with outlets for plugging in your electronics.
But like other initiatives to improve the quality of flight — such as More Room Throughout Coach on American Airlines, which gave extra legroom to economy class passengers but was ironically eliminated entirely just as United Airlines announced its new p.s. service — some features and amenities of the premium service offered by United Airlines on those transcontinental flights are being reconfigured or eliminated, according to FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Aaron Goldberg, who is the senior manager of Customer Experience Planning at United Airlines.
“This first aircraft to be reconfigured is already in modification and will take to the skies by March”, posted Goldberg. “Over the subsequent 8-9 months we will complete the transition, but during this period, there will be a mix of B757 aircraft flying on these routes. Since the configurations are very different, we will be taking some steps to ease us through the transition and minimize the impact of aircraft changes.”
Here are some of the highlights:
- All p.s. flights will operate as two-cabin regardless of actual configuration starting on June 6, 2013. By the summer, United Airlines expects to have already reconfigured several Boeing 757 aircraft. However, in order to minimize the impact of unexpected substitutions, United Airlines will only sell p.s. flights as two-cabin.
- Seats in the former United First cabin are reserved for customers who had previously booked in United First, as well as Premier members who are already confirmed in United Business. Specifically, Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold members can select one of these seats at any time if available, and Premier Silver members will have access to them at check-in. Note that during the transition, these seats will be branded as United Business, rather than United First. Nearer to the end of the reconfiguration process, United Airlines will start marketing the premium cabin on all aircraft as United BusinessFirst.
- The best way to know if you are going to be a passenger on a newly-configured aircraft is to look at the seat map on the official Internet web site of United Airlines, which will display 28 seats in United Business — subject to change, of course. Seat maps will generally reflect the older configuration until a few months before departure, when United Airlines will start to have a better idea of what kind of aircraft will be scheduled for a specific flight.
- The Global First Lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is scheduled to remain open after June 6, 2013, welcoming Global Services members seated in United Business on p.s. flights, as well as customers on connecting United Global First itineraries.
- Upgrade policies are the same, as you can still request an upgrade on p.s. using RPUs, GPUs and award miles. The co-pay for Premier members requesting MileagePlus Upgrade Awards will continue to be waived.
Compare the features of the premium service offered in 2004 as compared to today:
- Thirteen Boeing 757 aircraft will be outfitted with 110 seats
- 12 seats in first class
- 26 seats in business class
- 72 seats in economy class
- Handheld personal DVD players provided to first and business class customers with choices of ten films
- All economy class seats are Economy Plus
- All seats with laptop plug-ins
- International starndard menu for all three cabins
- First class seats with a 68″ seat pitch lay flat; business class seats with a 54″ seat pitch, and Economy Plus seats with a 34″ seat pitch
- Boeing 757 aircraft will be outfitted with 142 seats
- 28 seats in United BusinessFirst with 180-degree flat-bed seats
- 48 seats in Economy Plus with even more legroom than before — 36 inches
- 66 seats in economy class
- Complimentary in-seat audio video on-demand entertainment
- USB and standard 110v power outlets accessible from every seat
- Gogo Wi-Fi — and coming later this year: connection speeds up to three times faster
…so there is no more first class cabin service, 32 additional seats on each aircraft, and 66 seats in the economy class cabin are standard coach seats instead of Economy Plus. However, there will be faster Internet service, as well as complimentary in-flight entertainment for presumably every passenger and lie-flat seats in the business class cabin along with extra room in the Economy Plus seats — so the reconfiguration is not a complete all-out downgrade of service.
It is uncertain at this time whether or not the food served in the business class cabin will be improved — but I see no confirmation at this time that economy class passengers will still be served meals.
The transition is expected to be completed within the next nine months or so.
Some FlyerTalk members now believe that the term premium service is now a misnomer with the reconfiguration, as they mourn the loss of the original premium service configuration — while others are looking forward to trying out the new premium service configuration.
Time will tell as to how FlyerTalk members will react once they try out the new premium service configuration.