United Airlines Reveals Embraer Regional Jets With Fewer Seats

United Airlines has quietly revealed two new seatmaps for its Embraer E175 aircraft. These new configurations have fewer seats than the airline’s current E175 jets, which makes sense as United has to comply with strict requirements in its contract with pilots as involuntary furloughs loom.

United Express E175
United has revealed E175 seatmaps with fewer seats. Photograph provided courtesy of Denver International Airport

United’s new E175 seatmaps

On its website, United Airlines has revealed two new seatmaps with a total of 70 seats each. The first new seatmap has 12 first class seats, 32 extra-legroom economy, and 26 standard economy seats.

United E175 premium
Untied’s released one E175 seatmap that has 32 extra-legroom economy seats. Photo: United Airlines

The next seatmap has 12 first class, 16 extra-legroom economy, and 42 standard economy class seats.

United Express E175
The other new E175 seatmap is less premium. Photo: United Airlines

The 76-seat E175s have 12 first class, 16 extra-legroom economy, and 48 standard economy class seats.

76 seater ERJ175
The 76-seat seatmap of the E175s for United Express. Photo: United Airlines

The first 70-seat configuration doubles its extra-legroom economy section while leaving the first class section intact. The more premium E175 will offer all passengers access to power outlets. All other E175 configurations only have power outlets in first class.

The Embraer E175s conduct a variety of operations for United. Most of the flights these planes fly for United are short-haul operations to regional destinations such as from Houston (IAH) to McAllen (MFE), San Francisco (SFO) to Eugene (EUG), and others. In addition, several short-haul high-demand routes from competitor hubs are also operated using E175 aircraft. This includes flights between Detroit (DTW) and Chicago (ORD), Salt Lake City (SLC) to SFO, and Dallas (DFW) to IAH.

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Why is United doing this?

United Airlines has to remove seats from its regional jets as part of its contractual obligations with mainline pilots. Only a certain percentage of United’s regional fleet can be comprised of 76-seater planes. However, in the case of involuntary furloughs for senior pilots, United will have to convert its 76-seater E175s down to 70-seater jets.

United E175
United Express uses its E175s for a variety of purposes. Photo: Embraer

Back in May, COO Andrew Nocella stated that United was working on the engineering to remove seats from its aircraft in the event of involuntary furloughs. Now, in August, it is more evident that United will need to furlough pilots. The carrier will emerge smaller from the crisis employment-wise. With less flying, this also means the airline will not need as many pilots. While United has not outlined specific fleet retirements, there, inevitably, will be some retirements.

Why can’t United fly as many 76-seaters as it wants?

US airlines contract out regional flying to other airlines, including SkyWest, GoJet, CommutAir, and others. The smallest aircraft that mainline airlines fly are usually about 100 seats at the lowest end. The regional carriers can fly regional jets at a lower cost than it would be for the mainline airlines.

United Express is United’s regional brand. Photo: Getty Images

However, for mainline pilots, there is a concern from mainline pilots over airlines contracting out too much flying and hurting pilot jobs. Mainline pilots are often paid more than regional pilots.

These scope clauses, which limit the size and breadth of regional aircraft operations, are a big point of contention for a lot of airlines. United has been trying to get its contract renegotiated to allow for more regional flying. The scope clause limitations are what drove United to take on the CRJ550s, a very premium 50-seater jet based on a 70-seat model.

What do you think about United’s move to remove seats from the E175s? Let us know in the comments!