United Airlines pulls back the curtain on latest first class

The Star Alliance carrier plans to roll out the seat across 200 aircraft in the coming years.

By Chris Ashton, July 13 2023
United Airlines pulls back the curtain on latest first class

Passengers flying at the pointy end on United Airlines will soon be greeted by an ‘evolved’ experience with the airline debuting a first look at its new domestic first class, complete with wireless charging, privacy screens and the ability to use your phone as a TV remote.

Of course, despite its lofty name, many will know it’s not ‘first class’ in the international sense. In the US, domestic first class is more closely aligned with business class and follows a conventional 2-2 layout.

Resembling a hybrid of Virgin Australia’s new 737 MAX business class and Qantas premium economy – the hardback shell certainly seems moulded from the same ilk – the new seat will make its debut on an upgraded Boeing 737NG later this month.

Seats include storage under the arm rest, as well as between the seats.
Seats include storage under the arm rest, as well as between the seats.

If it looks familiar, that may be because it’s near-identical to the one United debuted earlier in the year on the airline’s retrofitted Airbus A319, with a few notable refinements. That said, this is the first true update to first class since 2015.

The Star Alliance member expects its latest first class to eventually be rolled out on some 200 domestic planes by 2026, including 737 NGs, A321neos and other 737 MAXs.

Mark Muren, United’s Managing Director of Identity, Product and Loyalty, says the enchanted seat is designed for the needs of modern travellers, adding “more charging options, bigger spaces for devices, food, drinks and personal items and extra privacy.”

The screen is fixed in place.
The screen is fixed in place.

Those modern needs will no doubt be satisfied by a 13-inch HD touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to now enjoy a two screen experience with mobile phones acting as the remote control. It’s similar to Qatar Airways’ ‘zero touch’ functionality.

There’s another reason Qatar Airways springs to mind, as this first class was actually created in collaboration with United and London-based design doyens PriestmanGoode, who helped develop Qatar Airways’ superlative Qsuites.

Also on the cards is a larger, 18 x 8.5 inch tray table incorporating a built-in tablet holder – handy for those who prefer BYO entertainment – and enough space for most standard laptops.

Three charging options will ensure devices remain juiced up for the duration in the form of a universal AC outlet and USB-C port, plus a discreet wireless charging dock tucked underneath the arm rest.

Power outlets are found between the seats, just above a nook for water bottles.
Power outlets are found between the seats, just above a nook for water bottles.

Other features include vegan leather upholstery, winged headrests and a fixed pie-wedge privacy screen between seats, which will require travellers flying together adopt the old ‘lean to talk’ position.

A Velocity partner, United allows Virgin Australia frequent flyers to earn points and status credits on UA flights, as well as status-based perks including United Club lounge access – like the recently-debuted Newark Terminal A – plus priority check-in, security clearance and boarding.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 26

I wish Virgin Australia would take notice, they could have done something like this for the Max 8.. It seems creativity and true guest experience isn’t paramount

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 121

Agreed. But that ship has well and truly sailed. Now if only they’d load enough melas on J….

31 May 2013

Total posts 27

This style of seat would be great for QF to launch on their new domestic 321Neo - either this, or the seats that CX have in their 321Neos - perfect for Tasman and Transcon. Hopefully we see QF spend some $$s and be bold. 

Well done UA - they certainly seem to be taking their product up a notch - unlike AA. Flew UA SYD-SFO-LAX and was all in all pleasant. Crew very rough, but hardproduct and app were perfect. 

DGP
DGP

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 172

Gone are the days where we used to laugh at the US airlines hard product...UA and DL seam to be doing quite a lot to stay current.  Of course service and food are another thing.

Fingers crossed that QF do something amazing with their new domestic/regional Business Class on the upcoming A321LR/XLR's. The CX A321neo regional Business Class looks great if you are not putting in a flat bed.


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