May 10, 2013 United Airlines to update A319’s and A320’s
In what is almost non-news United Airlines announced to Milepoint.com and Flyertalk.com that they will be retrofitting their narrowbody airbus fleet. The upgrades include wifi internet and AVOD and power in first and economy plus. However, the upgrades are almost entirely overshadowed by the notice that United will be installing Recaro’s slimline seats. These seats have been adopted by Southwest and numerous European carriers to universal disappointment of travelers. The seats allow the airline to reduce pitch and cram in more seats into an already cramped space.
How far we have fallen from the days of more “room in coach.” You may remember the ads from TV and here is a 2000 NYT article detailing American Airlines plan to put “more room in coach.”
United Airlines has pledged to pay for extra padding, head rests, and adjusted the seat design so that travel will not be as painful as it is on Southwest or the other European carriers that have adopted the seat. However, this remains to be proven true. Based on the description provided it looks like the seat will probably look like Recaro’s current long-haul seat the CL3620 imaged below.
While the current design is up in the air the other development, wifi, interests me more. Again taking a page out of Southwest’s book, United is going to add wifi internet and streaming AVOD. Southwest’s current offering is described here. I think we can expect to see something similar adopted by United, just more expensive. United previously made available to its first class passengers free Direct-TV on flights with Direct-TV. This will probably not extend to the wifi equipped plane and we will start to see first class passengers being asked to pay wifi. Cramped planes, expensive wifi, no other IFE, UA’s airbus fleet will have the same experience as US Airways’ fleet, just with more pitch and worse food.
The race to the bottom continues.