As far as upgrades to the UA
business product, I wouldn't expect any major improvements any time soon. UA
does not have the money to purchase the seats.
is testing flat beds on its PS
service transcon..to see how passengers are reacting to the seat made by Aviograf (I believe that is the seat manufacturer). It is an Italian seat company that has traditionally has made the seats for Alitalia for their 767 and MD11 Economy and Business Class product. They have graduated to making beds. As far as I know, their bed product is not selling real well, so since UA
is looking for a deal, they are giving them a test ride to see how well they hold up and also to see how the passengers respond to them. If the F class passengers do not care for them, I am certain they will pull them out in favor of some other kind of bed seat.
The existing business class seat made by BE
for United is an exceptionally well made seat. In fact, this seat was designed with the help of United marketing and test passengers, who gave them feedback along the way in the design and manufacturing process to assure that the seat would do what it was designed to do; provide maximum comfort to the Business Class passenger for an extended flight across the Ocean. These business class seats have been well received and were very popular until the bed product started coming along.
The problem with most business bed products is because the shell has to house the mechanism to convert the seat into a bed, it causes the seat to be quite narrow. In fact, BA
's business class seat is barely 18.75", where as UA
's Economy Class seat is 18.5". UA
's Business Seat is 20" wide on the 777 and 19" wide on the 767. However, all the functionality of the seat is there. Furthermore, all of BAs seats are electronically operated. UA
's business seats are pnuematically operated, so the seat can be operated manually if there is a problem with the seat. The lounge and recline on the UA
seat gives a very comfortable resting position for sleep. Granted, it is not fully flat; however, you can rest on your side.
While it certainly can be argued that UA
needs a bed product in Business Class, it does make the case for a certain product variation between its three products. In First Class, the First Suite gives full privacy and a fully functional flat bed for sleep. In Business Class, the Business Class suite provides a comfortable seat, power plug in, the fleet will soon have wi-fi capability, so wireless internet will be available on the fleet. In Economy, with the widest seat of any in its class, United can boast 36" in Economy Plus for full fare paying passengers and in regular Economy, United has 31" seating, but still the 18.5 in wide seat.
So in terms of product, UAs on board product, while not at the head of the class, is still competitive, it just needs a little touch up here and there and the right kind of marketing campaign to make it stand out as a superior product to the bed + bed products that exist on other carriers. This most certainly can be done.
David L. Lamb
fmr Regional Sales Analyst
ual 142599 (1992-1998)
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998