Hong Kong will be the first international destination to see United’s B777-300ER.
United has ordered 14 of these large B777-300ERs. It plans to base them at its hub in Newark New York.
All 14 of the new aircraft are expected to be in service by the end of next year.
This three-class B777-300ER is configured with no fewer than 60 of its new Polaris business class (configured 1-2-1) * , 102 economy plus seats (configured 3-4-3) and 204 seats (also configured 3-4-3) in regular economy class.
Polaris business replaces both the old business class and first class. Polaris business lounges will open in Hong Kong and San Francisco in 2017.
* For full Polaris details see
It had been thought United would choose the flagship New York-London route to launch the B777-300ER but it is not to be.
The reason is that the B777-300ER is intended to replace United’s B747-400s which have provided it with loyal service over many years.
And the B747-400s are mainly seen on the transpacific routes to Asia and Australia. They are rarely seen on transatlantic routes.
Although United’s B777-300ER will be flying overseas from March 25 it will be possible to sample the new aircraft on domestic flights effective February 16 through to May 3.
United will be operating the B777-300ER coast-to-coast between New York Newark and San Francisco six times a week. The idea is that crew and airline staff can familiarise themselves with this particular aircraft type.
What is disappointing is that, according to the seating plan, this aircraft appears essentially as a two-class plane.
In the absence of a proper premium economy cabin (which rivals American Airlines and Delta are poised to introduce) the real space and comfort is to be found in Polaris business class.
With aircraft configuration already set in stone there is little United can do to rectify the situation.
But as sure as night follows day United will eventually have to follow the lead set by its rivals.
On the busy San Francisco-Hong Kong route United will be directly competing with Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines (the latter has fifth-freedom rights).
And all these carriers offer a combination of award-winning products in first, business and premium economy. With both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines still offering roomier 9-across (3-3-3) economy seating.
So United has a tough job on its hands.