United Airlines will “test [their] U.S. domestic customers’ acceptance of a new economy-class seat” later this month, when a Boeing 757 gets outfitted with a new economy seat design. The plane, with “Slimline Seats” will go into service later this month.
Thanks to an e-mail forwarded to me by a reader of this site, we’ve got UA’s internal-company pitch of the new seats:
New features of the modified B757 include:
* four additional economy-class seats
* leather seat covers in both classes of service, United First and United Economy
* in-seat power available in both classes of service
* life vests installed for all passengers and crew members (given that the seat cushions are not floatable in the new design)
* brand-new seat cushions
The new, slimmer seats have 40 percent fewer parts, making them easier for Maintenance to service, and they are of a lighter weight. In addition, the passenger control units which are typically placed on the tops of the armrests are located on the sides of the seats for a smoother armrest surface.
Literature pockets on the new seats are located above the tray tables, opening up additional personal space surrounding the knees and legs. A smaller, mesh pocket is available lower down on the seat to hold incidentals such as PDAs or eyeglasses.
The test aircraft will enter modification at Timco in Greensboro, N.C., on April 18 and is scheduled to return to service this month. Testing will be conducted for 60 to 90 days to determine customer response.
The aircraft is flying as nose number 5493 today; it will be renumbered 5093 after the modification.
Squeezing four more seats into the 757? I’m trying to figure out how that will work on the seatmap.
Inseat power in both cabins is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t require en EmPower or other adapter.
Reconfiguration of the seatback pocket to provide more room at the knees sounds good, too.
The big risk? Butt and back support. These 757s fly cross-country, and a thinner seat means less padding. (The seat cushions are no longer a floatation device…) Materials science has admittedly come a long way since these planes were last outfitted, so the slimmer seat may be equal to the existing, well-worn seats. But passengers should hope for an upgrade, not a lateral.
And that’s where the phrasing of the announcement worries me. “Testing customers’ acceptance” of the new seats doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you say when there’s an improvement at hand.
Photos of the new seat below (admittedly small pics, but they’re all I can get at the moment.) I enjoy the way the seats are untethered from the confines of an aircraft cabin, and have a backdrop of staircases and shrubbery…