Why United Offers A Lie-Flat Seat On This 2-Hour Flight

by joeheg

I don’t choose flights based on the type of seat. Even on the longest US domestic flights, I can deal with sitting in Economy Class. I had no troubles on our flights on Icelandair, and I enjoyed our flight on Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu to Orlando.

However, we find it’s worth the money to spring for the larger seats on low-cost carriers. When flying Frontier or Spirit, I will pay for the Works package or the Big Front Seat.

We’re okay with sitting in Economy on American, Delta or United. It might not be the most comfortable ride, but it will get us from point A to B. Honestly, it’s not worth upgrading to the extra legroom seats when Sharon has plenty of space no matter what plane we fly on.

If you do pick your flights based on which aircraft will be flying the route, beware that airlines can swap planes at a moment’s notice. Even if you choose a flight based on the aircraft on the schedule, you’re not owed anything if you end up on the worst aircraft in the fleet instead of the newest model.

When I wrote that I couldn’t believe JetBlue was flying the E-190 from Orlando to Newark, several people commented about why airlines fly planes on seemingly unreasonable routes. Their reasoning was either this was a positioning flight, or maybe the airline has excess E-190 planes, and it makes sense to fly them instead of letting them sit unused.

I felt the same amazement when I booked our flight from Newark to Orlando on United and saw that we were booked on a 757-200. This aircraft is usually used on transcontinental flights and has lie-flat seats in First Class.

Who needs a lie-flat seat for a 2-hour flight?

United flights between Newark and Orlando leave almost every hour. While most flights operate with 737-700, 737-800, 737 MAX 8, or 737 MAX 9, two of the flights use a 757-200.

  • 7:26 AM – 737-700
  • 8:00 AM – 737 MAX 9
  • 9:00 AM – 737 MAX 8
  • 9:55 AM – 757-200
  • 11:55 AM – 737-800
  • 1:00 PM – 737 MAX 9
  • 2:10 PM – 737-800
  • 3:21 PM – 737 MAX 8
  • 4:29 PM – 757-200
  • 5:54 PM – 737-800
  • 6:54 PM – 737 MAX 8
  • 9:12 PM – 737-900

I used FlightRadar24 to track the 757-200 flights between Orlando and Newark. It looks like they travel between the cities to fill time between when they’re needed for long-haul trips. It’s interesting to follow a plane to see that it makes a hop between Orlando and New York before heading to Edinburgh or makes a flight to Denver before heading to Maui.

If you’d want a flat seat for the 2-hour flight between Newark and Orlando, you could try to book a flight on a 757-200. But is it worth the $500 upcharge United is asking for United First?

Note: We can still pick preferred seats on United because of the Silver status from the Bilt Rent Day promo in November.

Maybe if I was a United 1K and could confirm an upgrade, it might be worth picking a flight with a better first-class seat. But what’s the minimum flight time where looking for a lie-flat seat over a regular recliner is worthwhile? For shorter flights, all you’re looking for is enough space to work comfortably, not a chair designed for sleeping.

I’d think you’d have to be flying for several hours before you’d change plans to get a lie-flat seat. Of course, you’re not going to complain if you happen to get on a plane configured with first-class lie-flat seats.

While we don’t have to worry about this because there’s no chance we’ll get an upgrade to first class as United Silver members. But for those of you with high-level United status, do you book flights based on the aircraft or are you more concerned with the schedule?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Shaun January 17, 2023 - 12:30 pm

Quite a few of the current ORD-MCO are also being operated with lie flat seats via the 777-200 HD version. I think it’s mostly about aircraft utilization. While lie flat isn’t really needed on a 3h flight it is a nice upgrade.

Lea January 17, 2023 - 3:05 pm

Recently returned from DEN to MEM. Had booked the morning non-stop which is typically a regional jet. Not great but it’s non-stop and the timing worked for me. A few months prior to the flight I noted they’d cancelled my flight and had rebooked me DEN-IAH-MEM. I could have changed to the afternoon non-stop but wanted to get back earlier so I accepted the change. I hadn’t paid attention about the aircraft I’d now be on and was pleasantly surprised to find the first leg was on a 777 and I now had a lie-flat seat for the 2-hour hub-to-hub flight. It was the old 2-4-2 layout in J and some seats faced backwards but I still got a kick out of it for such a short flight. Of course reality crashed back down when I changed to an RJ for that final leg home.

bk January 17, 2023 - 3:13 pm

IAH-MCO. At least one flight a day moving forward seems to be a 767 with updated Polaris seating.

Christian January 18, 2023 - 8:21 am

Why show a Singapore Business Class seat as the first picture with the caption “WHY UNITED OFFERS A LIE-FLAT SEAT ON THIS 2-HOUR FLIGHT?”

joeheg January 19, 2023 - 10:07 pm

The article was originally going to be more broadly focused, but it ended up being mostly about United. I never changed the picture.


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