Naturally, you’ll only be affected if you’re sitting in economy.
That feeling of being crammed into a sardine can whenever your board a plane is only getting worse. Yesterday, United announced a plan to add a seat to every row in the economy cabins of its 777 fleet, with a rollout scheduled to begin in May. Where rows used to be organized in a 3-3-3 configuration, switching to 3-4-3 rows will make for two middle seats in the center of the plane—and it’ll almost certainly shave more than an inch off of each seat’s width, based on similar conversions on other carriers. It’ll also swell the existing pain points of boarding times and overhead bin space—which can’t be helped by an additional 20 passengers per plane.
The move, said United, was meant to reflect a wider industry trend—other carriers, like Emirates, Air France, and American, already outfit their Boeing 777 with a 3-4-3 seat configuration across their coach cabins. In fact, more than half of Boeing’s 777s are ordered in the 10-abreast layout.
Along with adding extra seats, the carrier is making some upgrades—the retrofits will include the installation of power outlets and Wi-Fi. (United is one of the top carriers when it comes to availability of Wi-Fi, but these long-haul planes were as-yet lacking in that department.) And United will also be shifting the route designation for these planes, placing them on longer domestic flights—mostly to and from Hawaii—while Dreamliners, or Boeing 787s, take over more and more international routes.
Also in United’s future: an “economy-minus” fare designation, as it’s been dubbed by industry folk. Details are thin on what exactly it will entail or when it will rollout, but one thing is for sure: along with your shrinking seats will come fewer perks and more fees, especially if a good price is what you’re after. And those newly-minted free snacks? We’re dubious they’ll be included.