UPDATE: In April, Live and Let’s Fly was first to report that United Airlines would add seatback screens to its older jets. At the time, United refused to confirm details on the record, prompting questions as to whether United had changed its mind. But the news is now official. United Airlines will renovate all older mainline narrow-body aircraft to add seat back screens by 2025.
This move marks an important step to separate United from budget carriers and is in marked contrast to American Airlines, which has chosen to rip out individual screens in favor of streaming video on many of its jets.
The original article appears below.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has talked often during the pandemic about emerging as the best airline in the world. While hardly an unusual aspiration for an airline leader, United is taking a number of steps that it hopes will move it in that direction. For passengers, that includes the installation of seatback screens on more aircraft.
United Airlines Will Add Seatback Screens To Older Aircraft
Toby Enqvist, the Chief Customer Officer, laid out the premise in a video to employees:
“Our competition is really, really stiff, especially in our hubs. Our customers actually have a choice. They don’t have to fly United, so we have to make them want to choose United.”
Promising that United will be characterized by innovation as it emerges from the pandemic, Enqvist noted a number of initiatives, including:
- Renovating older narrowbody aircraft to add new seats with seatback screens featuring AVOD (audio and video on demand) and adding larger overhead bins.
- Expanding some United Clubs which are currently “undersized”
- Improving onboard dining by implementing the pre-order of food by the end of 2021
Enqvist did not go into detail, but I have reached out to United Airlines for additional info.
While United Airlines offers a wide range of streaming movies and TV shows on most of its fleet, not all passengers come prepared. The seatback screen is always a customer favorite and is one great separator of a full-service network carrier from a budget airline.
The option of pre-ordering food in both economy and first class on domestic flights holds a lot of promise. Not only will make it customers better prepared and happier onboard (assuming what is ordered is delivered), but it provides a source of ancillary revenue and a way to cut down on waste.
Even with most international travel still depressed, U.S. airlines are on the verge of flourishing once again. United’s latest initiatives show a concerted effort to improve, which consumers will welcome as capacity returns and consumers once again experience greater choice in their flight options.
image: United Airlines