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Earlier this week, I wrote about how United Airlines might add more First Class seats to its Airbus A320s as part of its cabin refurbishment project known as United Next. There was a rumor that the first aircraft was going to be refit, but it looks like this might have hit a snag.
United’s Airbus A319s were all updated to have 12 First Class seats, but not one A320 has gotten more seats. It’s not looking good that this will happen as the first A320 outfitted with the United Next cabin returned to service with 12 First Class seats (registration number N438UA).
It's 12F on these. Some are leaving room for it to be changed to 16F at some point and some point to the issue being FA staffing of F having been the determiner and an explanation as to why UA stated, pretty unequivocally, 16F, and then reversed course on that.
— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) June 1, 2023
The issue may surprise you. United and all airlines are seeing a demand for premium seating, while it had a plan to add more staffing might hold up these plans.
The current A320 layout has 150 seats. This includes 12 in First Class and 138 in Economy Class. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets minimum staffing at two flight attendants for 100 passengers and another cabin crew member for each additional 50 passengers. United can schedule the A320 with three flight attendants. The number of seats in the proposed cabin change would not have increased the number of seats in the aircraft, but one flight attendant would be handling 33% more premium passengers with the seats increasing from 12 to 16.
Since United would likely not pay to have an extra flight attendant onboard, that would create a lot of extra work for one person to serve that cabin. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) apparently was also not pleased at the thought of increasing the size of the cabin (knowing the demands that would be put on the First Class flight attendant).
(Image Credit: JetPhotos.)
Anthony’s Take: I wish United would spend the money for the extra flight attendant as that would make for a better passenger and employee experience, but I don’t see that happening. I guess we’ll just have to be happy with 12 seats on the A320. At least the legroom in the bulkhead will stay as roomy as it is now from seat 1B.
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