United to put Wi-Fi on 747s between Australia and US, but there's a catch

By danwarne, August 23 2011
United to put Wi-Fi on 747s between Australia and US, but there's a catch

United Airlines will upgrade the 747s that fly between Australia and the US to offer inflight Wi-Fi, the company's Australian office has confirmed.

However, it will only be used to allow passengers to stream movies to their laptops, iPads and other Wi-Fi enabled devices.

It's a long overdue upgrade for United's 747s flying between Australia and the US, which still have no inflight entertainment in economy-class seats, much to the surprise of passengers who fly United for the first time.

Now, United is leapfrogging installing inflight entertainment into the old planes altogether, opting instead for the more cost effective option of providing movie servers in the plane that passengers can access using their own devices.

The upgrades are only made possible due to the merger of United and Continental. Before these two giant airlines merged, United simply couldn't afford to upgrade its planes.

CEO Jeff Smisek admitted its 747s flying between Australia and the US weren't meeting passengers' expectations.

“The back of the product on the 747 that United flies to Australia is not an acceptable level of product," he told Australian Business Traveller.

“And I know that, I recognise that. But United on its own didn’t have the money to invest in that product. Now (with the United-Continental merger) it does, and we will.”

United Australia says it can't confirm when the inflight movie streaming will become available to passengers out of Australia.

No sign of inflight internet

According to a United Australia spokesperson, although it is installing Wi-Fi internet into many planes as part of a $550 million fleet upgrade, flights out of Australia will not be hooked up.

The Wi-Fi on United's trans-Pacific 747s will only be there for the purpose of streaming movies.

A company spokesman said internet would only be avaiable on Boeing 737s and 757s with DirecTV, which is only available in the mainland United States.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

So United's not going to issue devices to passengers, but rather adopt a BYO approach – you bring the device and we'll provide the content?


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

Yes! The official line from United is "United is selecting a vendor for a streaming video in-flight entertainment option on its Boeing 747-400 aircraft, enabling customers to access video options via their Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices, tablets and laptop computers." (emphasis added by me)

I wouldn't be surprised if they had a "rent an iPad" offer or something inflight though..


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

While I can see the sense in this, I just don't like it... Laptops are cumbersome (and I've seen people using enormous ones that spill over to their neighbors seat space), heavy, can be noisy and very bright and are a pain to deal with when the person at the window wants to get up... iPads etc are better, but still a bit awkward imo, and not a seamless as the PTV way of doing things...

Not much longer to go till we see some UA A350s in SYD with proper IFE!!


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

Well, they're not installing power-points in the seats, so you'll only have to worry about laptop use for a maximum three or four hours anyway, until your neighbour's battery runs out ;-)

But seriously... I wouldn't be surprised if United includes some sort of add-on frame to the back of its seats to allow an iPad to be hung on the seat-back. (Though, if they're really trying to go down a least-cost path, the safety approvals involved with that might be prohibitive...)

03 May 2012

Total posts 11

Even if they don't replace the torture seats and keep charging for the drinks in "rendition class", what about some power-points?

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