United Airlines’ President Scott Kirby announced yesterday that United is exploring lie-flat seating on upcoming 737 MAX 10 deliveries.
Speaking at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Denver, Kirby touted United’s lie-flat domestic flights:
It’s been really successful in the markets that we have it in. There are other markets out of Newark and Dulles that we would like to have it but we simply don’t have airplanes to do it today.
Kirby is the ultimate bean counter so I hope he would know better than anyone else the economics of selling, say 16 lie-flat seats in a 757 forward cabin versus 24 “standard” domestic first class seats. Does the delta for premium for lie-flat seats cover the shortfall of eight premium seats?
In speaking about potential route expansions for lie-flat beds, Kirby singled out Washington Dulles.
Would San Francisco to Washington DC work? Probably. That’s part about creating a fleet we can experiment with and see which markets work and which don’t.
I have enjoyed lie-flat beds on United between Newark and Seattle and between Washington and Los Angeles/San Francisco. But these flights do not appear with regularity. Instead, we typically see 757s with flat beds during the winter seasons when these aircraft are not needed for travel to Europe.
Innovation or Tried and True?
United has a choice to make on seating. Kirby mentioned a “second prototype” that will be tested this fall. That indicates to me United probably won’t be using its standard B/E Aerospace Diamond Seats:
These seats do not offer direct aisle access to passengers seated at the window. But if United uses seats similar to what JetBlue uses in MINT or FlyDubai uses on its 737s, capacity will be reduced even further:
Other Kirby Comments
We are positioning ourselves to not only become the world’s No. 1 airline by growing and taking advantage of our network, we are also putting the company on solid footing to withstand outside market forces that will arise in the future. Additionally, we’re creating a culture of innovation and trying new things which is key to our continued success.
On Customer Service:
While safety will always be our highest priority, we are extremely focused on taking care of our customers and fellow employees, elevating our customer service to the next level and allowing our employees to do what’s right. Twenty nineteen and beyond are really about changing how customers feel about United Airlines.
Good sentiment indeed, though all of that comes crashing down if oil spikes up drastically or we enter economic recession.
United ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10s and will begin taking deliveries in 2020. Well before then, however, we should have a good idea of what a new lie-flat seat might resemble. Speaking as a traveler, I am far more likely to pay for a domestic premium seat if I know I have a lie-flat bed. Kirby understands that there are many in my boat and hopes to capitalize on it.