In an event that will seemingly mimic an Apple WWDC, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will hold a “major media event” this evening in New York City’s Gotham Hall. Expect the unveiling of a “totally new premium product experience” including a new business class seat.
Here’s what we know–
- In March, Brian Summers leaked pictures of new United business class cabin-design which includes direct aisle access for all seats
- The seat pictured in the LOPA (layout of passenger accommodation) above is the Recaro ComfortLine CL6710
- Munoz met Captain Denny’s final flight to Chicago and told Flyertalkers onboard that the event in New York would introduce a “totally new premium product experience” including a new business class seat
When Summers published the leaked LOPA, United only said that was one configuration under consideration, but I expect the new cabin to be similar. Seats will still be packed compared to most 1-2-1 layouts, but there will be direct aisle access at each seat.
United has a chance to do much more than introduce a new seat, which probably will only appear on new aircraft anyway and not any of the existing longhaul fleet. Here’s three things that could re-establish United as global competitor for premium traffic:
- As long as first class remains, differentiate it more (like AA is now doing on ultra longhaul routes). Add caviar, better wine, and a different menu. Pajamas as well. United won’t be investing in new first class suites, so this is the best they can do but it would still go a long way toward encouraging the uniqueness of the Global First product.
- New menus in business class. The current longhaul menus seem to appear every third month and have for many years (even longer if you go back to the Continental days). There needs to be some innovation in longhaul menus just as there has been for domestic flights.
- Stress wi-fi availability across the fleet. It amazes me that carriers like Cathay Pacific or British Airways still do not offer wi-fi onboard. This is a comparative advantage for United. I spent hundreds per year on United wi-fi and value tremendously that I can always stay connected when I fly.
I look forward to hopefully a few positive surprises from Munoz tonight and will report back as soon as more details emerge.