Traditionally, the single-isle Boeing 737’s have never had lie flat business class seats. With only around 189 seats on board, for any airline to reduce their capacity to include larger seats would cut significantly into their profit, especially if the cost of a business class seat is only double or triple a standard economy seat.
JetBlue seems to have made it work, however, offering flat-bed business class seats for on average $599 one way between New York and the West Coast on their Airbus A321 (Which is also a narrow body aircraft). They have been the only low-cost airline in the united states to do so since 2016.
Outside of North America, FlyDubai has recently been offering 10 flat-bed seats on their Boeing 737max’s, so the concept is proven.
However, they will no longer the only airlines offering this, with United Airlines throwing their hat into the ring and becoming another airline to install flat beds on select Boeing 737’s.
Why Is United Upgrading Their Boeing 737s?
The Boeing 737 series is the best-selling commercial jetliner in history, being continuously produced since the 1960’s and recently in 2018 having the 10,000throll off the production line.
United Airways has 335 Boeing 737 variants currently in service, with 155 on order (100 B737max-10 and 55 B737max-9). They a primary used in routes in the continental USA (But do use some for international routes, just as the United Island Hopper) focusing on short-haul capacity between outlying cities and their eight different hubs.
With so many business passengers flying frequently across America, allowing a continuation of service not normally seen outside of their twin-aisle widebody variants will be a game changer when it comes to attracting business. To fly in a lay-flat seat internationally on United, then switch to another plane with the same level of service will be very attractive and increase brand loyalty.
Plus, this will allow United to remain competitive with international carriers, such as Emirates, whom may always have lie-flat seats available, and domestic competitors like JetBlue.
It is not said yet what routes will have their new lay flat service (They will most likely be installed on the new Boeing 737max planes being delivered in 2020 rather than retrofit their current fleet), but we suspect that it will be for the longer routes that can justify it, such as Washington DC to San Francisco. They will also be creating and designing a new seat to work with the planes.
“It’s been really successful in the markets that we have it in. There are other markets out of Newark and [Washington] Dulles that we would like to have it but we simply don’t have airplanes to do it today. Would San Francisco to Washington DC work? Probably. That’s part about creating a fleet we can experiment with and see which markets work and which don’t.” – Scott Kirby President of United via FlightGlobal
With United being one of the largest airlines in the world, this new trend of lay flat seats on narrow-body craft has jumped forward a movement we will very likely see rolled out across other airlines (Which recently Malaysia Airlines said they will install them in their 10 Boeing 737maxs too!).