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United adding Dreamliner 787s on transcontinental flights

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© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Boeing's Dreamliner 787-10

By Chris McGinnis, Tim Jue, SF Gate

Travelers who fly cost-to-coast between San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York-Newark on United Airlines might find themselves on the carrier's newest jet starting in January 2019 — one that boasts some major passenger upgrades.

United will debut its new fleet of Boeing 787-10 jets, the longest variant of the Dreamliner family, on the Newark-Los Angeles route beginning January 7, 2019. United will then operate the 787-10 on the Newark-San Francisco route beginning February 14.

On the EWR-LAX route, the carrier is putting its newest jets on two daily frequencies, one departing Newark for LA in the morning, returning midday, and one in the afternoon, returning to eastbound as a red-eye flight. As for the EWR-SFO addition, United is scheduling the jet to operate a westbound evening flight and an eastbound red-eye.

Tickets on the 787-10 flights are available for sale on united.com now. We found a one week round-trip in mid-February in the $320 range for an economy class seat on the Dreamliner and $263 for a restrictive basic economy ticket. Wanna ride up front in lie-flat comfort? That will cost about $1,900 if you fly on the Dreamliner, and about $1,200 on a 757 or 777. (Prices are subject to change.)

The 787-10s are scheduled on the transcontinental routes through at least late-August, according to our searches.

Monday's announcement by United puts an end to speculation about the seating layout of the new jet, which is 18-feet longer than United's fleet of smaller 787-9s.

According to the airline, there will be 44 Polaris business class seats, the latest generation of dark blue lie-flat seats that's being rolled out on most international aircraft, 21 United Premium Plus seats , the airline's purple premium economy section that still hasn't been officially introduced. When those seats first debuted, we were first to get a look at them.  There are 54 seats in extra-legroom Economy Plus, and 199 standard Economy seats. That's a grand total of 318 seats on this widebody.

On these premium transcontinental flights, United will sell the Premium Plus seats as extra-legroom Economy Plus seats initially, and that's a major upgrade for those lucky enough to snag one of these seats since they boast a wider seat that includes even more legroom than Economy Plus. And you'll get a bigger seat back monitor to watch the in-flight entertainment.

If you're really fortunately enough to be in business class, fliers will enjoy the airline's latest generation Polaris lie-flat seat, which will be a big upgrade from the older business class seats that frequent fliers on United's transcontinental flights might be used to.

If you're a fan of flying on larger double-aisle wide bodies, these 787-10 flights will be a big enhancement for you. The airline operates a fleet of 757-200s and a few 777-200s on these routes. Only United and Delta Air Lines regularly schedule wide bodies on these transcon routes while other carriers fly single-aisle jets.

United has 14 Dreamliner 787-10s on order with the first ones due to be delivered from the Boeing factory in Charleston, South Carolina in the coming weeks. These planes will primarily fly international routes, but debuting them on longer domestic flights with high premium demand will get pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and airport personnel acquainted with the new jet type before the jets fly overseas. United debuted its fleet of 777-300ERs in 2017 on transcon flights too.

United also said Monday it has ordered nine more 787-9s with deliveries expected in 2020. That's in addition to the four orders announced earlier this year so, that's 13 more 787-9 deliveries for what the airline said was a move to "execute on its comprehensive fleet plan which includes its widebody replacement strategy."

In Monday's announcement, the airline simultaneously announced a big increase in summertime 2019 coast-to-coast flights between Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco — which United calls its "premium transcontinental service" routes. (Previously p.s. flights.) Between the two routes, the airline said it will offer more than 7,200 seats, with more than 1,000 of them lie-flat premium seats.

For the summer 2019 schedule, United will operate 15 flights a day in each direction between Newark and San Francisco with one fight an hour during most times of the day. Four of the flights are on wide body jets (three on 777-200s and the one aforementioned flight on the 787-10).

By comparison, United is operating only 10 flights a day between EWR and SFO during the less busy wintertime, so the these changes won't alleviate the frequent wait for gates at SFO anytime soon. Click here to find out more about the gate wait at SFO.

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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission.  You can reach Chris at chris@travelskills.com or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.

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