As United continues to retrofit its existing long-haul fleet with the carrier’s new lie-flat Polaris business class seating, its first overhauled 777-200 is due to start flying sometime this winter. And while front-cabin flyers might appreciate the Polaris refit, with direct aisle access at every seat, main cabin travelers will find a change they might not like: 10-across seating instead of nine.
News reports in Flightglobal.com and in the Los Angeles Times say that United plans to configure its long-haul 777-200s with 50 Polaris seats and 242 economy seats – about two dozen more economy seats than the aircraft currently have, depending on the specific model.
By going from nine seats to 10-across in coach, United will be bringing its 777-200s to the same standard as its new 777-300ERs, in which it introduced its new Polaris cabin earlier this year. While United now refers to all its business class cabins as Polaris, as of last month only 15 planes had the new lie-flat, angled seats in the front cabin – 14 new 777-300ERs and one retrofitted 767-300.
United’s total long-haul fleet includes some 200 aircraft. The first retrofitted 767-300 recently went into service on the Newark-London Heathrow route, and United expects to have 14 overhauled 767s in service by the end of next year. Most of the new 777-300ERs in service are on transpacific routes.
Unlike the larger 777s, the refitted 767-300s will still have seven-across economy seating after the retrofit. Some 90 United 777-200s are due to get the 10-across seating overhaul in the next few years, and on the plus side, they will reportedly preserve their existing seat pitch in the main cabin – 31 inches for regular economy seats and 34 for Economy Plus.
United already has 10-across seating in some 777s that are used mainly on domestic routes (those planes are not getting the new Polaris front cabin). In recent years, many of the world’s airlines have been shifting their 777 configurations from nine-across to 10 across.
There was no immediate word on how the new layout would affect seat width on the United 777-200s. According to Seatguru.com, United’s higher-density domestic 777-200s have 10-across coach seats that are 17.1 inches wide, vs. 18 or 18.3 inches on its nine-across international 777-200s. Its new 777-300ERs have 10-across seats that are 17 inches wide, so it’s probably a safe bet that the economy seats on the reconfigured 777-200s will also be 17 inches wide.