United Airlines Unveils New First-Class Seats

There are several upgrades in store for travelers at the front of the plane on select domestic flights.

A row of paired new first-class seats on United Airlines

The new United first-class seats feature greater privacy, with seat dividers and winged headrests, among other enhancements.

Courtesy of United Airlines

United Airlines recently introduced new, more high-tech first-class seats on some of its U.S. routes—the first update to its domestic first-class product since 2015.

The biggest changes are technology enhancements. The next-generation first-class seats now feature three types of charging outlets (a USB-C, an AC household-style outlet, and a new wireless option on the armrest); a 13-inch, high-definition seatback screen (with a companion remote for passengers unable to reach the screen); and Bluetooth connectivity for passengers using wireless headphones. They also feature vegan leather upholstery; privacy screens between the armrests of neighboring passengers and a winged headrest to help minimize customer contact; Italian quartzite cocktail tables between seats; a larger 18- by 8.5-inch tray table with a built-in tablet holder; a more ergonomic seat cushion; and five inches of recline range.

Closeup of new wireless charging option on United first-class seats.

The new first-class seats feature wireless charging in the armrest.

Courtesy of United Airlines

According to Mark Muren, United’s managing director of identity, product, and loyalty, the new United first-class seats were designed with the modern traveler in mind, with “more charging options, bigger spaces for devices, food, drinks, and personal items, and extra privacy,” he said in a statement. “As we evolve the onboard experience, we’re upending old industry norms and anticipating future needs to accommodate the new ways people live and travel.”

It’s worth noting that United calls its forward-most premium seats business class on long-haul flights (specifically United Polaris business class, which includes pod-like, lie-flat seats) and first class on shorter domestic flights.

Currently, the new first-class seats are rolling out on select Boeing 737 aircraft, but United said it plans to install the seats on about 200 domestic planes by 2026, including on some of the Boeing 737 NGs (which stands for Next Generation and is a narrow-body aircraft), Airbus A321neos, and 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet.

According to a United spokesperson, the new domestic first-class seats are part of ongoing efforts to “up-level the overall customer experience, across cabins and through every touchpoint.”

The spokesperson also pointed to changes to the app to make the airport experience smoother, the new United Next planes (200 aircraft currently being built, each with larger overhead compartments and more premium cabin seats), and the expanding or updating club offerings (like the massive new United lounge in New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport).

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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