United to install seats with thinner backrests

United Airlines is installing seats with thinner backrests on hundreds of planes, beginning with its regional carriers.

The Chicago-based carrier says the pitch and legroom on the seats won't change, even though the backrests will be thin enough to allow the carrier to fit more seats per cabin. The width of the seats won't change.


With thinner backrests, each passenger sits back further in the seats, taking up less space and giving up enough room to squeeze in more seats.

United introduced the seats this week on Bombardier CRJ700 jets operated by SkyWest Airlines, a regional carrier for United. With the new seats, United can fit four more seats in the cabin than before, for a total of 70 seats.

Eventually, the new seats will be used on most of the airline's domestic regional and mainline jets, including its bigger Airbus A319 and A320 planes, said United spokeswoman Karen May.

Despite the thinner design, United touted the seats as having better ergonomic support.

Several other carriers, including American, Southwest and Spirit airlines, have in the past few years installed seats with thinner backrests to increase the number of seats per cabins.

"Our customers will see a distinctive, consistent look on our aircraft that underscores our modern fleet and our onboard investments to make their travels more user-friendly," said Jeff Foland, United's executive vice president of marketing, technology and strategy.

[For the record, 5:15 p.m. Oct. 4: A previous version of this post said United's new seats have thinner seat cushions. The airline said the backrests are thinner.]