The United Airlines 787-8 and 787-9 fleet will soon start its Polaris conversion process. The update will give the twin-aisle aircraft the company’s updated business class seats as well as add the Premium Plus premium economy product. Both of these changes should generally be seen as improvements for passengers flying the long-haul routes the planes focus on. But for regular economy class passengers the changes mean more seats and fewer EconomyPlus extra legroom options on board.
United’s 787-8 cuts business class, boosts economy seat count
For the 787-8 the retrofit means a reduced business class capacity of just 28 seats in the Polaris Cabin, down from 36 in the current layout. The planes will still feature a mini-cabin behind the 2L/R doors, but just one “cluster” of 8 seats in that section. The Premium Plus cabin adds three rows for a total of 21 premium economy seats on board. But the biggest changes come in the economy class cabins.
On the current 787-8 layout United offers 183 seats, 70 of which offer extra leg room for EconomyPlus customers. In the newer layout a total of 194 economy class seats fill the cabin. Only 36 (or 34 if the 3L/R exit windows are still excluded) of these appear to be EconomyPlus layout. For passengers willing to pay a little extra for a little extra room on board – or for United’s MileagePlus elite members who get E+ assignments for free – the reduced inventory of these seats is a big blow to their chances for a more comfortable on-board experience. Unless, of course, they splurge for the Premium Plus seats.
Comparing the seat maps it appears that pitch will be reduced in the rear section of the plane. An extra row is being added in the outboard sections, albeit just two seats up against the rear lavs rather than three.
In total the new 787-8 layout for United Airlines carries a total of 243 passengers, up from the current 219.
United’s 787-9 sees more economy seats on board
On the 787-9 the changes are similar to the 788, though not quite as drastic. The Polaris cabin offers the same 48 seats in the new layout as it does in the current configuration, though now with direct aisle access for all passengers. The Premium Plus cabin will be the same 3 rows on the 787-9 as on the 787-8 (and 787-10).
For economy class the current layout is split 88/116 between Economy Plus and regular economy class seating. In the new layout the E+ section drops by more than half to just 42 seats, while economy gets a 30 seat boost to 146.
In total the new 787-9 layout carries 257 passengers compared to 252 on the older configuration.
Fewer Lavs on board
For both new layouts United is removing lavatories as part of the cabin densification project. Both the 787-8 and –9 offer economy class passengers bathroom options at doors 3L/R and 4L/R today. On the new 788 layout the lavs mid-cabin are removed while on the new 789 arrangement the rear lavs disappear. As a small win, the mid-cabin lavs on United’s 787-9 will now offer an option for passengers with reduced mobility.
Update: It appears that the 788 will still have a mid-cabin lav for PRM, similar to the 789. Still not a great ratio overall, but not quite as bad as it seemed initially.
On the 787-8 United will reduce the premium cabin lav count by one. Both lavs are at the front of the aircraft. This can be somewhat justified by the reduced total seat count in that cabin. For Premium Plus passengers it will be a long walk to the back of the 788 to get to a restroom.
On the 787-9 the forward cabin keeps its three lavs, though the layout shifts, putting two in the front galley rather than just one. And Premium Plus travelers only have to walk half way back to find a loo.