United revamps popular PS flights to New York

The new United PS business class seat will be identical to Continental BusinessFirst seat pictured here. (Photo: United Airlines)

United’s super-popular “Premium Service” (PS) flights on the business-travel-heavy route between SFO and New York-JFK (as well as LAX-JFK) are about to undergo a radical re-do. To me this is great news because the current PS interiors have been tatty and worn out for a while…

Last week United revealed details of the new PS to TravelSkills, so here’s what you need to know:

>Reconfiguration of all 13 United Boeing 757s offering PS service will begin this October and should be complete by summer of 2013. All seats, walls, floors, bins, lavatories and galleys will be replaced, so they will feel like brand new planes. (No word yet on when you will actually be able to book a new PS flight.)

>The reconfigured aircraft will have business class, Economy Plus (EP) and standard economy seats.

>There will be no first class seatson the new PS aircraft. (Currently, there are 12.)

United’s current PS business class seat. (Photo: United Airlines)

>Reconfigured aircraft will have 28 true-lie-flat business class seats, up from the current 26 cradle-style seats. The new business class PS seat will be the same as Continental’s flatbed BusinessFirst seat on its internationally configured 757s. (See photo above) United says it will call this class of service United BusinessFirst.”

>Each business class seat will have an individual 16-inch video monitor connected to and audio-video on-demand (AVOD) system, a three prong universal 110v electrical outlet and USB port. (No more Dig-E-Players!)

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>In-flight service in business class will be the same—you’ll still get pre-flight cocktails, warm nuts, and two hot towels. (There will still be the peachy Bellinis and other featured cocktails served.)

>There will be 48 Economy Plus seats on the new PS flights, down from 72 in the old version. The downside is that there are fewer EP seats, but the upside is that EP seat pitch on the new PS flights will be 36 inches. (Current PS flights have 34 inches between each coach seat. And as we all know, two inches can make a big difference!)

>There will be 66 standard economy seats on the new PS flights with 31-32 inches of pitch—current PS flights offer EP only.

>Both EP and standard economy seats will have individual 9-inch seatback video screens with access to the AVOD system. (No more fuzzy overhead screens!)

>All PS flights will be getting an upgraded Gogo in-flight wi-fi system that a spokesman said should be faster (9.8 Mbps, up from the current 3.1) and better able to meet the high demand on these flights.

Mock up of American’s “Transcontinental Series” business class seat. (Photo: American Airlines)

>On the competitive front, American has announced that starting in late 2013 it will dump its current 767’s flying between SFO and JFK and replace them with much smaller, but specially outfitted, stretch versions of the Airbus A321 with first, business, Main cabin Extra and standard coach seats. Delta and Virgin America offer the same first class Recaro seat on the route, and have not made or announced any recent changes. (Here’s our post and video about a recent Delta Business Elite flight to JFK.)

How do YOU like to fly to New York? Are you pleased with the changes coming to United’s PS flights? Are these changes a net gain or loss for BATs – Bay Area Travelers? Please leave your comments below.


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  • John

    Sad Continentalization.
    The Continental (d.b.a.) management really needs to go. With such degraded benefits, I question my loyalty to what was once a decent airline.

  • Tyson

    When i read this article it just enraged me furthur, i was already upset with the changes the continental managment had alread made, i am a frequent United flyer and i frequently fly from SFO to JFK, though i agree the p.s. aircraft need “fixed up” i dont like them getting rid of first class.

  • Svence J

    Just booked a flight NYCSFO – what a crock.

    Business trips will be on other airlines (which are quite a few), dumping the presidential card before renewal – and I’Ill burn up the 600K miles I got and be done with it.

    Continental was 100x better. Period.

  • Simon Allardice (@simonallardice)

    The update to Biz is nice, but adding economy to this service is very disappointing.

  • Joyce

    Today (Jan 29) it seems that United is losing money fast. I think it’s partly b/c they don’t use (or have) the management from Continental… I always fly into Newark (NWK), and I wouldn’t use this airline anymore except that I have lots of MILES.


  • Eric

    Just booked a round trip JFK-LAX for early October, looks like both planes are the newly revamped ones, unless the seat maps on united.com are screwed up.

  • Paolo

    Is there a way to know which ua flights will have wifi? They are so far behind. … Loss of all EP or better on p.s. and first is another downgrade. Why is UA so overpriced and poor value? Virgin rules from SFO .

  • Bluecrush

    Standard economy seats on the P.S. flights?? Another blow to UA’s 1K’s what next? At least I was guaranteed E-Plus. That’s why these coast to coast flights are so popular with UA’s frequent flyers.
    UA’s new marketing leadership needs to go!

  • fogmachine

    I take this flight regularly because I’m guaranteed EP even with fairly late booking and have laptop power at all seats. This new configuration is a huge step down – the late booking means standard economy seats on a flight that’s always full. Don’t know if my Million Mile status is worth the 12-hour round-trip extra discomfort.

  • Rayme

    PS does need to be upgraded [it is almost 10 years old after all] but what UAL is doing is unfortunate. Basically they are making the planes into a copy of the 757’s that Continental and now UAL fly across the Atlantic; the ones that run out of gas and have to stop in Greenland. UAL should do what AA is doing. As a 2 million miler on UAL I will continue to fly PS but it is too bad that they are getting rid of First and getting rid of Economy Plus throughout coach. Used to be special, sounds more pedestrian now. Too bad. Thought having Continental management would be better for United but my experiences have not been good since the changeover.

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  • mark

    I thought UA got rid of specialty cocktails on PS.

  • chris

    Simons: I think UAL stands to make $$ by selling TV and movies and advertising on seatback monitors, which probably brings in more revenue than it loses by hauling around all that heavy equipment.

  • msimons

    Sounds promising, but United could save money and weight by scrapping the inflight monitors.
    Doesn’t everyone bring their own entertainment nowadays ? Know I do, beats being interrupted every ten minutes for some announcement.

  • chris

    Debbie: I think UAL is waiting for new satellite based gogo for non-ps flights… I don’t think that will come until well into 2013. If wifi is important to you, choose Delta or Virgin.

  • Debbie

    Have you heard any updates on when United will have Internet on their non PS flights? They announced that it was coming in 2012 but we are more than half way through and I haven’t been on one flight with internet (even on top market flights like Chicago).

  • Qualmod

    I agree with Hugo. Now, as a Silver Premier, I’ll have to buy up to EP. United has made ther message loud and clear to their “middle class” frequent travellers ( people who fly between 25k to 49k per year), “we just don’t care about you anymore, now that we have absorbed Continental’s upper tier members). After 13 years of golden handcuffs with United I now try to avoid them at all costs.Virgin American is by far a better experience – on any of ther flights.

  • Hugo

    The overhaul is nice but it sounds like SFO-JFK Economy Plus without a premium is over. Given United’s poor service and surly staff I will likely be looking at other options coast to coast as United loses their only competitive edge.

  • Scott

    That’s great news about the P.S. renewal! Those Dig-E Players that they have currently are so buggy. Thanks for the report. Everyone seems so negative about United right now, but my recent experiences have been very good, and this seems to bode well for future SFO experiences.