Feb. 6 (UPI) -- United Airlines on Wednesday announced a slight overhaul to seating on its international, domestic and regional flights, a move to appeal more to business travelers.
The airline said it will add 1,600 Polaris business class seats, which lie flat and have aisle access, to nearly 250 international and domestic planes. United will also begin offering first-class seating in its 50-seat regional aircraft, the only airline in the world to do so.
"In an era where many airlines are adding seats to their aircraft to crowd more passengers onto the plane, we're re-configuring more than 100 of our aircraft and doing exactly the opposite -- for the benefit of our customers," United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said in a statement.
The carrier will revamp 21 of its Boeing 767-300 aircraft by removing half the seats in economy and adding 50 percent more business-class seats. United will also add a new premium economy cabin. Overall, it said, the Boeing 767-300 planes will reduce capacity from 214 seats to 167.
United will fly the new aircraft on the route from Newark Liberty International Airport to London Heathrow, with more routes to follow.
Big changes are also in store for regional flyers, as United said it will add 50 Bombardier CRJ 550 planes to its fleet. First-class passengers will have a self-serve beverage and snack station, more legroom, storage closets for carry-on bags and new LED lighting. The aircraft, operated by regional partner GoJet, will fly from hubs at Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Newark to smaller destinations that don't typically offer first-class service.
United's plans include a flight to Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart is based.
The carrier said it's making the upgrades to better compete with American Airlines and, to a lesser extent, Delta Air Lines because it hasn't had as many amenities to offer corporate travelers.
"We felt like we were at a competitive disadvantage in certain markets," Nocella told The Wall Street Journal. "We have a lot of ground to make up."