United Airlines is upgrading its fleet of Airbus A319 and A320 jets, with the first of the aircraft to be fitted with new seats taking to the skies next week.
It's part of a rolling upgrade to these single-aisle workhorses of United's domestic fleet.
Slimline Recaro seats are being installed in the Economy and Economy Plus cabins, but even the cheapest of these will boast almost one extra inch of legroom – or more correctly, knee-room – owing to not only the slimmer seatback but also the relocation of the magazine compartment to the top of the seat.
More space, but more seats too
However, all those extra inches won't be given over to travellers, with United using the opportunity to squeeze a few more seats onto each plane.
"The new seats will allow us to increase the capacity of these aircraft, but without compromising personal space" explains Aaron Goldberg, Senior Manager of Customer Experience Planning with United Airlines. "Although all Airbuses will see an extra row in United Economy, we will also expand the Economy Plus cabin on all A319s and many A320s (the non-ex-Ted aircraft)."
Sharing some details on the upgrade through the FlyerTalk website, Goldberg says Recaro has modified the seats from their basic catalogue offering to add "several upgraded comfort features over the base model."
"These include multi-directional headrests, added lumbar support, and a different seat bottom cushion with more padding and multiple layers of soft memory foam."
Also on the to-do list: larger overhead bins to cater for ever-increasing amounts of carry-on luggage, and beginning in 2014, AC power outlets for First (business class) and Economy Plus seats.
WiFi on the way
The Airbus A319s and A320s will also get inflight streaming WiFi "later this year", Goldberg says, to beam on-demand audio and video to traveller's own devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.
"On-demand streaming video will become the standard for our Airbus fleet. As a result, when these aircraft go in to have the new seats installed, the traditional audio/video system with dropdown monitors will be removed."
"Wi-Fi will be available on all aircraft that have the new seats... like Wi-Fi the streaming product will eventually have pricing attached to it, although we do plan to offer a limited range of complimentary content until we finalize these plans."
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.