Air Travel: United Adds Polaris Seats, Air France’s New Cabins

(Photo by Air France)

This week in air travel news, a number of airlines have made major onboard product announcements. 

This week United Airlines announced plans to add more than 1,600 United Polaris and United First seats to nearly 250 international and domestic aircraft, as well as to introduce the two-cabin, 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550 aircraft to its fleet. 

United said that, over the course of the next several weeks, it would begin introducing the first of its 21 reconfigured Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with 16 additional United Polaris business seats in the premium cabin, bringing the total cabin seat count to 46 and representing a more than 50 percent increase in all-aisle-access seating. The newly reconfigured 767s will also have 22 United Premium Plus seats, 47 Economy Plus seats and 52 Economy seats. The first reconfigured 767 will operate between Newark and London

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Starting early next year, United said it will add four United First seats to its fleet of nearly 100 Airbus A320 aircraft, increasing the total count from 12 to 16. The reconfigured aircraft will also feature 39 Economy Plus seats and 95 Economy seats. United expects to complete the reconfiguration of the Airbus A320 and A319s by the middle of next year.

Finally, by the end of this year, United says it expects to introduce 50 new 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550 aircraft, which will offer customers more legroom and storage capacity, as well as the first first-class seating on a 50-seat aircraft. 

Also this week Air France released a first look at its new long-haul cabins, which will exclusively be available onboard its Airbus A330s. The new cabins will have a new Business Class seat that can convert into a lie-flat bed, as well as extra-wide HD touchscreens and a redesigned self-service bar. Premium Economy seats will also be upgraded with additional space, including a 130 degree seat recline in a fixed shell, lumbar support adapted to different body shapes, more storage space and a wider footrest. Economy seats will receive more space between the armrests, reinforced ergonomic foam and a larger tray table and touchscreen. 

The first flight equipped with these new cabins connecting Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Accra (Ghana) took off on February 3, 2019. All told, 15 aircraft will be redesigned by 2020. 

At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, this week Delta’s first A220 took flight. The new aircraft takes advantage of advanced technology and composite materials designed to deliver considerable improvements in fuel efficiency, and it is the airline’s latest investment in a fleet modernization program that aims to replace 20 percent of older, less-efficient aircraft by 2020.

Finally, in airport news, this week American Airlines and British Airways announced future plans to co-locate their operations in New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 8. American and British Airways will invest $344 million in Terminal 8 over the next three years to prepare for the co-location in 2022, with British Airways moving from its current operation in Terminal 7

This $344 million investment in Terminal 8 will include improvements in the overall customer experience, including the addition of five widebody gates and four adjacent widebody hard stands, enhanced baggage systems, new lounges, premium check-in space and upgraded concessions and retail options.

The two airlines said that the co-location will allow them to offer better service between New York and London and beyond, with customers arriving in New York being able to more conveniently connect onto other American Airlines flights and customers departing New York will gain the flexibility of 14 daily flights to London all departing from the same terminal.

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