United 787-10’s have three rows of deluxe seats at no additional charge, for now

Since I’m so fucking verbose, I’m gonna start something new on my blog: bullet point summaries to lead off. Then the addled among you who choose not to luxuriate in my bountiful prose stylings can still get the goods. Here goes:

  • If you’re in Economy Plus on a United 787-10 aircraft, sit in rows 20-22 for a much nicer seat. And, if you’re traveling as a couple and choose a window, you’ll have no seatmate.

Ok here’s my million word version of same:

For those of you who spend your life thinking about constructive things, it may be off your radar that there are variants of aircraft, which vary by passenger capacity, range of flight, when introduced, shit like that. It’s like software version numbers. There’s not one 747; theres 747-400, 747-800, etc. There’s A321, A321neo, A321LR. There’s who knows how many 737’s. And so on. And so it is with the relatively new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 787-8 and 787-9 are out there, and the 787-10 is about to be.

United is the first domestic carrier to fly a 787-10, and their official start is Monday the 7th on flights between Newark and LAX, though they’ve snuck in some unannounced preview flights. It’s got their new fancy-ish Polaris seats in business class, unlike most of their planes, and more of them (44, compared with 16 or 28 of the old lie-flats found on most domestic 757-200 transcontinental flights). These seats are oddly staggered, to cram them all in there, in a 1-2-1 configuration. Every seat has access to the aisle, so you don’t have to get cozy with a stranger just to take a leak.

Anyhoo, these planes also have a new three-row cabin between Business and Economy Plus, called Premium Plus. Rather than being 3-3-3 like the hellzone in the back, the seats are 2-3-2, wider, have a footrest, lots of recline, and big screens with a new entertainment system. Sorta like first class on regular shitty non-tronscontinental flights, if not better.

You see what’s going on here? We’re back in three-cabin plane world. United, and everyone else, used to call their three cabins Economy, Business, First, which was straightforward enough. On the 787-10, they call them Economy, Premium Plus, Business.

Whereas “First” means nothing. It could be the boring “big seats and free drinks” you get when you fly from Duluth to Chicago on a two-cabin 737. Or First could be the nice lie-flat seats you get if you score a two-cabin 757-200 from San Diego to Newark, but without the superior “P.S.” or “Coast” amenities and service of the same plane flying LAX/SFO-EWR, where they’d instead call the cabin “Business.” Or First could be the spacious seats up front, ahead of the sardine-line Business cabin, on one of their old international three-cabin 777-200’s that hasn’t been converted to a two-cabin plane. “Polaris” might refer to either Business or First, and might mean either old or new seats (but lie-flat either way). Very, very confusing.

Anyway, I digress. The good news is they’re not selling any tickets as Premium Plus yet, and will only start doing so internationally this summer. In the meantime, on domestic flights, these are sold as plain old Economy Plus seats. But they’re actually better seats, not just seats with more legroom. I scored one of these flying EWR-LAX in February. My first clue about any of this was the seat map — rows 20-22 had only two seats at the windows, rather than 3. So I called United and they’re like, “Yeah, those are the new Premium Plus seats, but have at it.” Further research confirmed this; check out Zach Honig’s walkthrough at The Points Guy if you wanna see for yourself.

It will eventually suck when those Premium Plus seats are sold with the Premium Price you know is coming, but in the meantime, make yourselves comfy.

I’ll report on how I like the seats when I fly it in a few weeks. And then, happy day, a few weeks after, United actually cancelled an April flight I had a boring 757-200 business class ticket on, and rebooked me on one of these 787-10’s, so I’ll finally get to try out the new Polaris seats up front. (Not that I really had a problem with the business seats on the 757. I’m sitting in one now, and was sleeping on it earlier. But more space, more privacy and aisle access without climbing over someone? Yes, please.)

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