United Upgrading Airbus Fleet

Visit FlyerTalk for the original announcement and ongoing discussion

United is making a number of great updates to their A319s and A320s (legacy United planes). Here’s the info from UA Insider on FlyerTalk:

Hi Everyone,

As part of our continuing investment in our onboard product, we’re making a number of upgrades to the interiors of our Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. We recently began a new phase of installations, so I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you some additional and consolidated information on the future of this fleet.

Our Airbuses will be getting a pretty substantial refresh, including:

  • New seats in United Economy and Economy Plus, which will result in an additional half-inch of headroom an almost a full inch of additional knee space on standard seats
  • 110v power outlets in United First and United Economy Plus
  • New, larger overhead bins
  • Wi-Fi throughout
  • On-demand streaming video for Wi-Fi-enabled devices

As you know, we’ve already begun installing the larger overhead bins and Wi-Fi on many of these aircraft. And within the next week, the first Airbus with new seats will go into service. We’re looking at getting streaming capability up and running later this year, with 110v power installations starting in 2014.

New seats
The new seats are manufactured by RECARO, and you may recognize the specific model from several European carriers, who feature it on many of their mainline narrow-body aircraft. However, because we fly our Airbuses over longer stage lengths than the typical intra-Europe segment, our version of the seat will have several upgraded comfort features over the base model. These include multi-directional headrests, added lumbar support, and a different seat bottom cushion with more padding and multiple layers of soft memory foam. The literature seat pocket has been moved higher, which facilitates the above increase in knee space, and there’s a new amenity pocket specifically for personal items.

As reported here and elsewhere, the new seats will allow us to increase the capacity of these aircraft, but without compromising personal space. Although all Airbuses will see an extra row in United Economy, we will also expand the Economy Plus cabin on all A319s and many A320s (the non-ex-Ted aircraft).

Entertainment
Along with Wi-Fi, the addition of on-demand streaming video will become the standard for our Airbus fleet. As a result, when these aircraft go in to have the new seats installed, the traditional audio/video system with dropdown monitors will be removed. However, these aircraft won’t “go dark”—Wi-Fi will be available on all aircraft that have the new seats. In any case, like Wi-Fi the streaming product will eventually have pricing attached to it, although we do plan to offer a limited range of complimentary content until we finalize these plans.

Channel 9
Finally, I wanted to touch on a topic I know many of you (and I!) hold dear—Channel 9. For the moment, the move to Wi-Fi and streaming entertainment also means that live air traffic control will no longer be available in the “Channel 9” format. However, we are actively exploring options to bring Channel 9 to Wi-Fi equipped aircraft. Moreover, we remain committed to this product across much of the rest of our fleet, including all international long-haul and p.s. aircraft featuring on-demand entertainment.

Look out for more information, including comparison diagrams and an article on the United Hub, once the first reconfigured aircraft goes into service. Still, I wanted to make sure you heard the consolidated story here first.

Aaron Goldberg
Sr. Manager – Customer Experience Planning
United Airlines

I’m always in favor of more room, more comfortable seats, and more entertainment options – so this sounds like a pretty nice upgrade! According to Wikipedia, United currently has 55 A319s in service and 97 A320s, so this will impact a decent amount of the total domestic fleet.

After these reconfigured planes start to rotate into service, I’ll be sure to report back on what the new experience is like.

What do you think about the changes?


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  4 comments for “United Upgrading Airbus Fleet

  1. Jason
    May 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    So, they’re taking away free IFE and replacing with ‘upgraded’ pay-per-view.

    • Food, Wine, and Miles
      May 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Yes. But I’d rather have the option to pay for something decent than have to settle for the sad overhead TVs.

  2. May 16, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Now if they would just add an extra row of F to the A319s and they’d have a real upgrade!

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