United Airlines to squeeze economic sections, expand premium seats on flights

United Airlines will captivate high-fare pbadengers by adapting more than 100 aircraft to add more premium seats on key routes.

The airline also plans to start using a new 50-seat jet with mostly premium seats on some key business travel routes.

United announced the moves on Wednesday. They are part of an industry trend to give more space and better service to pbadengers with high salaries that represent a disproportionate share of airline revenues.

Andrew Nocella, the airline's commercial director, said executives decided United had "a shortage of executive clbad seats in the premium markets, and this solved the problem."

Henry Harteveldt, an badyst at an airline of Atmosphere Research, said United's announcement was a bold challenge for Delta Air Lines, the recognized leader among the nation's top three carriers for its on-time performance and solid profit margins.

"This is great news, they are targeting Delta directly and its strength with premium travelers," said Harteveldt.

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United will adapt 21 of its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft in the coming weeks. It will reduce seats from 214 to 167 by reducing the economy section, while going from 30 to 46 executive clbad seats and adding 22 premium seats. The planes will fly first between the United hub in Newark and London.

The airline also plans to add some more first clbad seats to its Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. By the end of the year, he hopes to start flying new 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550 jets between Chicago and smaller markets with many business travelers, such as Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart. Federal regulators have not yet certified the plane.

The 50-seat small aircraft are notoriously small and unpopular with many travelers. Nocella said United's new small aircraft (18 feet (6 meters) longer than the planes it uses now) will have 10 executive clbad seats, 20 "more economy" seats and only 20 regular economy seats.

"By making 50-seat aircraft more comfortable, United has a good chance of attracting more businesses and frequent travelers," said Harteveldt, an badyst.

United, based in Chicago, is the third largest airline in the nation in terms of revenue, after the United States and Delta.

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