United Continental to continue offering first-class seats

United Continental to continue offering first-class seats

In late 2010, United Continental Holdings announced that it had closed the merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines, making the two organizations wholly owned subsidiaries of the holding company.

Bloomberg recently reported that as the companies merge their fleets, the world's largest airline has announced that several wide-body jets will retain their first-class seats. This news comes as many other carriers are abandoning their premium sections in favor of more affordable fare.

The airline's decision to keep three-class cabins on a selection of its jets was based on the fact that passengers who purchase first class tickets help to keep planes in the air, according to the news source. These travelers fly more often on short notice and are willing to pay higher airfare for more creature comforts.

Out of the United fleet, 57 aircraft have first-class cabins, while Continental's planes feature business-class seats, the news outlet stated.

Having these aircraft sections available on international routes is especially beneficial to the company, as global travelers are willing to pay top prices, Jeff Smisek, chief executive officer of United Airlines and United Continental Holdings, told the media source.

Of United Continental's combined fleet, 120 of its planes feature lie-flat seats in its first- and business-class cabins, according to the news source. Due to the jets' unique configurations, the company must make sure that these aircraft are flying routes that will match the demand for these premium seats.

According to the airline's website, the lie-flat seats recline to a full 6-foot 6-inch bed and provide lumbar support and back stimulation via a BackCycler motion system. In addition, first-class passengers have the ability to charge and power their electronic devices, such as laptop computers and cellphones, from the comfort of their seats. Three-course meals and a complimentary selection of wines are also available to travelers.

As the airlines become one fleet, the news outlet reports that the planes will be redesigned to carry only the United name, in addition to Continental's globe logo. Smisek credits the jets' makeovers to the international reputation United has for offering first-class service to travelers.

"Internationally, the Continental name is not well known, and the United name is a superb name offshore," Smisek told the news source. "We tried to meld the two, because the international business is an important part of our business." 

By Christopher Straub

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