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United's seating to cater to overseas travelers departing LAX

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

United Airlines said Monday it was upgrading its first-class and business-class sections and would add more coach-class seats to some planes that fly lucrative international routes.

The UAL Corp. subsidiary, the largest carrier at Los Angeles International Airport, said it would reduce the number of business-class and first-class seats on 747 jumbo jets to make room for larger upgraded seats and would shrink the "economy plus" section to add coach seats.

The overhaul is part of the airline's broader plan to bolster international flights, which are more profitable than domestic routes. In May, United said it was reducing seats on domestic flights while boosting capacity on international routes.

The changes are likely to have the biggest effect on international travelers at LAX, where United is one of the largest transpacific carriers.

United's 747s, which are used on many of the airline's routes to Asia, will have fewer seats in first-class and business-class sections, but the new seats will be larger and have more legroom and amenities, United said.

There will be fewer "economy plus" seats — coach seats with more legroom — which will make room for 68 more regular economy seats, which are preferred by leisure travelers looking for lower fares.

The new business-class seat can recline to 180 degrees, which makes it the first of its kind for a U.S. airline, United said.

The seat, which will also be installed on 777 and 767 aircraft, will include an electrical outlet, an Apple iPod connection and a 15-inch personal video screen.

The upgrades, which the airline said would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars," is the latest move by a U.S. carrier to catch up with international airlines that have been able to beef up amenities and services as domestic carriers struggled financially in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Not to be outdone, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. have also announced plans to upgrade their premium sections on international flights.

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