United Continental Holdings says it will invest more than $500 million dollars in its on-board service product in addition to the 25 new aircraft – among them some Boeing 787s – that the airline will introduce to its fleet next year.
“When we announced our merger, we committed to building an airline that our co-workers would want to work for, our customers would want to fly, and our investors would want to invest in. These product enhancements announced today, coupled with our unbeatable route network and loyalty program, will provide an unsurpassed travel experience for our customers,” said Jeff Smisek, president and chief executive officer of United Continental Holdings, Inc. “We are planning many other product enhancements, both on the ground and in the air, which we will announce in the future.”
Near-term product improvements include:
● Adding flat-bed seating on 62 additional long-haul aircraft, bringing total aircraft with flat-bed seats to 185;
● Adding Economy Plus seating and Channel 9 air traffic control audio to more than 300 aircraft;
● Nearly doubling the overhead storage space on more than 150 aircraft;
● Installing advanced broadband Wi-Fi on more than 200 aircraft;
● Introducing streaming wireless video onboard its 747-400 aircraft; and
● Completely retrofitting its p.s. (premium service transcontinental) fleet with flat-bed seats, Economy Plus, on-demand audio and video and Wi-Fi.
In September, United Continental will begin installing all-new flat-bed seats, on-demand audio and video programming and iPod connectivity in the premium cabins on 26 Boeing 767s – 12 Continental Airlines 767-400ERs and 14 United Airlines 767-300ERs.
The company will also upgrade 767-400ERs with extra-legroom Economy Plus seating and the Channel 9 air traffic control audio channel, which all United Airlines aircraft have today. The 26 aircraft, which primarily serve transatlantic, Latin and Hawaiian markets, will offer BusinessFirst and Economy cabins.
Ongoing upgrades to First, Business and Economy class on the airline’s three-cabin Boeing 777-200s and 777-200ERs will continue, with 17 of 46 aircraft currently offering flat-bed seats and advanced in-flight entertainment in First and Business and on-demand video in Economy. United will retrofit more than a dozen additional 777s this year.
United says it now offers more flat-bed seats than any other U.S. airline, with 124 aircraft reconfigured to date and 185 once the 767 and 777 fleets are completed.
The carrier will also begin installing Economy Plus seating on all Continental mainline aircraft this fall, offering the extra-legroom seating on 38 Continental aircraft by year’s end and nearly 100 more by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
For customers flying in shorter-haul markets, United is adding First and Economy Plus seating beginning this fall to 29 Bombardier Q400 regional turboprops operated under the United Express banner. The Q400s fly principally out of United’s hubs in Houston Bush Intercontinental, Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty Internationaland Washington Dulles.
Economy Plus seating is currently available on every United aircraft and more than 150 United Express regional jets. Upon completion of the Economy Plus installation on mainline Continental aircraft and the Q400 fleet – bringing the total number of aircraft with Economy Plus to more than 850 – United will offer more extra-legroom economy seating than any airline in the world.
Beginning in March 2012, the airline will nearly double the size of the overhead bins on all 152 of its Airbus A319s and A320s. The larger bins will increase storage space for standard 22-inch rolling bags by 66 per cent. The airline will also refresh the interiors of its Airbus fleet.
United is selecting a vendor for a streaming video in-flight entertainment option on its Boeing 747-400s, enabling customers to access video options via their Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices, tablets and laptop computers. United’s 747-400s currently feature on-demand audio and video options in First and Business, with more than 150 hours of entertainment choices and iPod connectivity.
Meanwhile, the airline continues with plans to install Wi-Fi on its aircraft. In March, Continental Airlines signed a letter of intent with LiveTV to install advanced broadband Wi-Fi using Ka-band satellite technology on more than 200 Boeing 737s and 757s equipped with DIRECTV.
United is also doing a complete nose-to-tail renovation of its p.s. fleet, which serves the New York JFK-San Francisco and New York JFK-Los Angeles markets. When completed in 2013, p.s. aircraft will offer flat-bed seats, Economy Plus, power ports at every row, on-demand audio and video and Wi-Fi service.