Chicago-based United Airlines has announced it is making a number of small changes to its inflight product, highlighted by the introduction of a true premium economy, thus following in the footsteps of competitors American and Delta. Details on United’s premium economy product can be found here.
Another change that United will make is they will allow passengers who purchase a basic economy fare to choose their seat prior to departure for a small fee. This is a change from the basic economy fares of United, American, and Delta, but will allow United to better compete with low-cost cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier, who offer lower fares with the option to purchase add-ons including a pre-assigned seat. Currently, United’s basic economy fare does not allow passengers to choose their seat, instead assigning them a seat at check-in. This means that basic economy passengers are typically stuck with middle seats towards the back of the plane.
United is also going to install personal device entertainment on all of its aircraft. Currently, the only entertainment option United offers is DirecTV installed on its 737-800 fleet, besides the new deliveries, and half of its 757-300 fleet. This will change as United has announced that it will install personal device entertainment on all of its aircraft that currently only have DirecTV equipped. According to United, this “means all flights with at least 70 seats will have at least one free entertainment option available.” Currently, DirecTV is available for a fee.
United has also said they plan on upgrading the in-flight internet on its aircraft. Currently, many of the aircraft have ground based internet, meaning there are many areas over water where aircraft do not have in-flight wifi available. United is planning to roll out satellite based wifi on some of its planes. It is unknown which planes will get it first, however. This satellite based wifi will come with more bandwidth, allowing passengers to stream video, similar to the capabilities of Gogo’s 2Ku technology. This upgraded system has been tested on ten aircraft and has allowed customers to use 40% more data.
On a more specific note, United will add three more 767-300ER aircraft to its fleet either late this year or early next year. These aircraft will be sourced from Hawaiian airlines, which is in the final stages of retiring its 767 fleet. These aircraft will likely be N590HA, N592HA, and N594HA, the three newest aircraft in the Hawaiian fleet. These aircraft were built in 2002 and 2003.
Featured image by author Alec Mollenhauer