For an airline that was woefully behind the curve in introducing Wi-Fi to its fleet, it is a tad ironic that United Airlines has released a new commercial touting its onboard Wi-Fi and streaming video entertainment. Nevertheless, United has come a long way over the last year and continues to make great strides in offering in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Its new Matt Damon-narrated commercial is exceptionally well-done, but is it accurate?
Note the disclaimer midway through the video “Available on Select Flights. Simulated Screens”. That is an instructive starting point.
I do a talk on United Airlines at Frequent Traveler University (sign-up for Advanced sessions now in Washington, DC from 21-23 August or in Dallas from 25-27 September) and address this very issue.
Here’s an updated look at wi-fi across the United fleet:
And how about speed? Not very fast, but functional enough to send e-mail and do light web surfing:
A recent domestic flight from SFO-IAH
I have written about United’s Streaming Onboard Video before, and this truly is a game-changer on the 747-400, an aircraft in which United never installed seatback IFE in economy class. It also is a great feature on the Airbus A319s and A320s, in which United ripped out overhead IFE monitors. The elephant in the room, though, is that in-seat power is not available yet on many of these aircraft. United promises that will change too, but I have yet to fly a United 747-400 or A319/320 behind the curtain with in-seat power and United does not publish its progress on that front.
So is the commercial misleading? A little bit, for internet and streaming IFE is slow and not available fleetwide, but you are more likely than not to fly a mainline aircraft equipped with internet or streaming IFE now and by next year, wifi will finally be systemwide.
And kudos to United for the use of an Apple Watch. This commercial should be recyclable for the next two years.