United Airlines Hoping Thinner Seats Will Pack Even More Passengers Onto Planes

Can you just feel the "bold" multi-tonal leather and "distinctive" double-stitching?

Can you just feel the “bold” multi-tonal leather and “distinctive” double-stitching?

For the last few years, many of the larger airlines were tearing out rows of boring old coach seats and replacing them with slightly more expensive, slightly roomier seats. But these apparently never caught on with passengers on a number of United’s regional routes, as the airline now plans to reduce the number of Economy Plus seats on hundreds of planes and cram in even more coach seats with the aid of skinnier seats.

The Chicago Tribune reports that around 500 CRJ700 jets operated by United and its regional partners will get a makeover, cutting the number of Economy Plus seats in half from 32 to 16. Those 16 seats, along with four new ones, will be added to existing array of plain ol’ coach seats, bringing that number from 28 to 48.

But even converting those Economy Plus seats into coach wouldn’t give you the room for an entire row of new seats. That’s where the new, thinner seats come in.

The airline won’t give dimensional details on the new seats just yet so we can’t say yet whether you will be any cozier with the person next to you or not (the existing seats are already only 17″ wide, so it’s not like there is much room to get narrower), but United does confirm that the seat backs and bottoms are thinner than the existing seats on the CRJ700. The airline also claims that, because of the thinner seat backs, the legroom in coach will not change.

Another concern about adding seats to any aircraft is the additional weight of the seats and the passengers in them. United says the new seats weigh less in order to counter that concern. The lighter seats should also save the airline on fuel costs.

For what it’s worth, the airline is also throwing around vague phrases to describe the seats like, “bold elements,” “multi-tonal leather,” “distinctive double-stitch patterns,” “sculpted contouring,” “ergonomic and supportive cushioning,” and the all-important “additional seat-back storage space,” so that you can more easily stash the copy of Us Weekly and the $128 bottle of Dasani you bought at the terminal while waiting for your flight.

The first planes to get the seat overhaul will be the regional jets operated by SkyWest Airlines.