United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL) announced March 23rd that it had completed installation of 180-degree BusinessFirst flat seats aboard all Continental Airlines Boeing 757-200. The new seats provide 6’6″ accommodation in length (1.98 m) and 27″ (0.68 m) in width with a full 180-degree reclining capability allowing passengers to lie flat. The BusinessFirst class offers additional amenities to passengers including Escents Aromatherapy’ Amenity kit of exclusive aroma therapeutic bath and body products. In addition an In-flight entertainment system using a 15.4in touch screen is available with 40 feature films, 60 television shows, over 2,000 tracks of music, 20 interactive video games and more on Boeing 757. Each seat provides an entire connectivity suite for ipod and laptops with ipod playing via a docking station, usb ports and power outlets. With Continental Airlines the Boeing 757-200 aircraft have become the mainstay of its transatlantic fleet with 41 aircraft serving primarily European destinations out of the airline KEWR-Newark International hub. Equipped with the Boeing Aviation partners blended winglets, the Boeing 757-200 seems to have allowed Continental Airlines to profitably establish itself in a low density/higher margin business traveler market segment of multiple daily non-stop transatlantic services to destinations such as Belfast, Berlin, Birmingham, Bristol, Copenhagen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamburg, Lima, Lisbon, Manchester, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Shannon, Stockholm, and Stuttgart. Most remarkably in that market segment is that the 757-200 have taken precedence over the airline’s 21 Boeing 757-300, 16 Boeing 767-400 and 10 Boeing 767-200. Counter-intuitively the larger 767s have been mostly assigned to flying extended transatlantic routes out of Houston primarily where high passenger density has been a concern (Zurich, Munich, Berlin, Geneva) while the also larger Boeing 757-300s have been altogether confined mainly to US transcontinental service routes out of the KEWR-Newark and KHIA-Houston hubs. The completion of the Boeing 757-200 BusinessFirst seating upgrade is taking place as the new United Continental fleet is pursuing its gradual integration. Continental Airlines had previously completed the new flat bed seat installation on its 22 Boeing 777-200 this past December. United Airlines claims that currently the new BusinessFirst is operational on all of its 24 Boeing 747-400, 21 Boeing 767 and on 8 of its 46 Boeing 777 for a total of 116 long haul aircraft upgraded throughout both newly merged entities. Already it is clear that the new airline BuisnessFirst product will play a critical role in delivering a successfully integrated and highly differentiated brand identity that is necessarily for the airline to gain market share, more significantly on international long haul business travel.


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