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United pursues high-fare travelers with more premium seats, small jets for business routes

United Airlines will add more premium seats on

United Airlines will add more premium seats on key routes. Photo Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

United Airlines will woo high-fare passengers by retrofitting more than 100 planes to add more premium seats on key routes.

The airline also plans to start using a new 50-seat jet with mostly premium seats on some key business-travel routes.

These moves are part of an industry trend to give more space and better service to high-paying passengers who account for a disproportionate share of airline revenue.

The airline also plans to add a few more first-class seats to its Airbus A319 and A320 planes. By year's end, it hopes to begin flying new 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550 jets between Chicago and smaller markets with many business travelers, such as Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart. 

Small, 50-seat planes are notoriously cramped and unpopular with many travelers. United's new small planes — 18 feet longer than the planes it uses now — will have 10 business-class seats, 20 "economy plus" seats and only 20 regular economy seats.

United is the nation's third-biggest airline by revenue, trailing American and Delta.

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