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United Expands Flat-Bed Facility

Zacks Equity Research

United Airlines – an arm of United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) – is on track to increase the number of 180-degree flat-bed seats and a personal on-demand entertainment system for the premium cabin passengers of the long-route international flights.

United initially offered the facilities on flights from the airports of New York City. Now, the company’s flights taking off from eight hubs in North America as well as operating between Seattle and Tokyo Narita will also offer these advanced features.

United is ahead of any other U.S. carrier – Delta Air Lines (DAL), Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) and JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU) – in providing a flat-bed flying experience, with over 7,000 total such seats across its fleet. This gives the flyers an added level of privacy and comfort along with multi-course meals and complimentary wine plus personal attention from the staff. Already, 183 international long-distance jets have been designed with United Global First and United BusinessFirst cabins.

Customers traveling in United Global First cabins can avail the benefits of the newly launched turn-down service that renders additional luxury and larger sleeping space. Further, United has designed its Economy Plus seating arrangement with extra-legroom. This feature is available in almost 650 mainline aircraft and approximately 150 regional jets.

Along with these enhancements, United is refurbishing its transcontinental Premium Service aircraft operating between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company will revamp airplanes with all the aforesaid facilities plus wi-fi connectivity. The upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

We believe that United’s consistent efforts to make air travel finer, smoother and hassle-free will work in its favor to a great extent. These newly added features are expected to attract more customers, leading to improved revenues and earnings.

United Continental – which has the biggest fleet of aircraft outfitted with live television – currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) rating.

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