There was consternation when United announced in May that it was installing slimline seats manufactured by Recaro on its Airbus A319s and A320s. I’ve tried these seats before on a long-haul flight with Lufthansa and enjoyed the trip — though I did start to feel the seat dig into me near the end, it wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable. Since I usually get upgraded on domestic flights, I didn’t get to experience United’s version of the seat until last weekend when I flew to the Frequent Traveler University in Tampa.
Here’s how UA Insider described the changes to the Airbus fleet:
- New seats in United Economy and Economy Plus, which will result in an additional half-inch of headroom an almost a full inch of additional knee space on standard seats
- 110v power outlets in United First and United Economy Plus
- New, larger overhead bins
- Wi-Fi throughout
- On-demand streaming video for Wi-Fi-enabled devices
Well, sort of. I didn’t notice any changes to overhead bins, I didn’t try to use the power outlets, and though I saw a Wi-Fi logo on the door when entering, it was never turned on in-flight (I checked several times). The only improvement I got to experience was the new seats. And yes, they were an improvement.
I’m a weird guy when it comes to sitting in economy. I like firm support and an upright back. In this respect, the seat was great. United said it was opting for a version with extra padding, and it showed. Some European carriers use a less padded version for their intra-Europe flights, which can be 30 minutes to a couple hours, but I’ve seen United use A319s on their SEA-EWR routes. You can’t cheap out on a six hour flight.
I picked a bulkhead seat, but the new Recaro seats move the safety instructions and in-flight magazine to a new container at the top of the seat in front of you. This provides more legroom for the other rows — which probably wasn’t an issue if you’re already used to EconomyPlus. It also means United can pack in an more seats.
Not a huge change, but at least it’s not one I have to worry about any more. And I’m glad I got a good seat on this flight because I did a lot more standing in Denver, where there were plenty of opportunities for plane watching — a KC-135 Stratotanker taxied by at one point and a Boeing 787-8 was parked at the adjacent gate. It was so foggy, at one point I couldn’t even see the other terminal!