United Airlines Won't Let You Do This on Flights Until May 2023
You might be able to work the new policy to your advantage.
United Airlines is known for its catchy slogan, "fly the friendly skies," and as one of the biggest U.S. airlines, travelers expect the company to stick to its word. United does offer benefits for travelers, including a coveted free carry-on bag on most flights and a pretty comprehensive loyalty program, MileagePlus. But the airline recently announced that it's no longer allowing passengers to do something specific, with the policy already set in motion last week. Read on to find out what United Airlines is prohibiting on flights until May 2023.
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The FAA made some changes a few years ago.
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published updated guidance on weight and balance control for aircrafts. In the past, the total weight of the plane has been calculated using average weights for the cabin, baggage, passengers, fuel, etc., but these numbers needed to be updated and increased. According to Snopes, the FAA considered rising obesity rates, which increased the risk of discrepancies between existing average weights and the actual weight of passengers.
While it's vital to ensure aircraft have a safe weight when flying, in 2021, the FAA's policies faced backlash when it was reported that U.S. airlines could start weighing passengers. Reports were true, per Snopes, and the FAA guidelines state that airlines can weigh each passenger or ask them their weight before boarding. Guidelines even state that operators should estimate a passenger's weight and "add 10 pounds" if the number provided by the passenger "is understated."
The FAA notes that airlines can opt to perform a random survey of passenger weight at various airports to determine average weights, but even so, the policy was somewhat controversial. Speaking to this, United Airlines is taking a different approach to account for added weight.
Certain seats won't be available for travelers.
In what seems like a throwback to social distancing, travelers will now see select seats blocked off on United aircraft. This isn't being done to stop the spread of COVID-19, however, it's instead to adhere to FAA guidance, a spokesperson for the airline confirmed.
"To comply with FAA weight calculations that all airlines are required to perform, United removes from use three to six seats on its Boeing 757s over the winter months," the spokesperson told Best Life.
According to additional information provided to frequent flyer blog Live and Let's Fly, specific seats were blocked on Nov. 1 and will remain out of use through April 30, 2023. United Airlines also removed seats from use during the same period last year to comply with regulations, the spokesperson said.
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There are different average weights depending on the time of year.
While passengers' weight can fluctuate with changing seasons, it's not the only reason for higher averages during the colder months. Per Live and Let's Fly, increased winter weights are attributed to bulkier and heavier winter apparel, as well as heavier carry-ons, which aren't weighed in the U.S. According to the FAA, average clothing weights are five pounds in the summer and 10 pounds in the winter.
"Winter weights" are used by airlines from Nov. 1 to April 30, according to the FAA, which is why United makes adjustments for that time period. In 2019, average winter weights were raised from 150 to 184 pounds for female passengers and from 190 to 205 points for male passengers, per Live and Let's Fly.
Between May 1 and Oct. 31 "summer weights" are used, which also saw an increase. For female passengers, the average summer weight was increased from 145 to 179 points, and for male passengers, it was raised from 185 to 200 pounds.
You'll potentially have an empty seat next to you.
Per Live and Let's Fly, blocked-off seats will be in the middle, and travelers will see a sign that reads "Please excuse the inconvenience. This seat is temporarily out of service (Do not occupy." The seats will also be zip-tied.
While you sometimes consider it your lucky day when there's no one in the seat next to you, you can actually ensure this when flying with United, Live and Let's Fly reports. If you want to have extra room to spread out, check for certain seats on the seat map when booking.
There are two versions of Boeing 757-224 aircraft; the first, 75S, will have seats 24B, 27E, 30B, 24E, 37B, and 40B blocked off. On the second version, 75B, blocked seats include 29B, 32E, and 36B. For 757-324 (75E) aircraft, seat 16B, 19E, 27B, 30E, 36B, and 29E won't be in use, according to the Live and Let's Fy.