United unsure if it will offer Channel 9 live ATC on ex-Continental aircraft

United 744 SYD ATC tower.JPGListening to live ATC on Continental aircraft brought into United’s fleet is in flux. Photo: Will Horton.

There were many macro questions–fleet, routes–for United chief executive Jeff Smisek during an address in Sydney last week, but some aviation hobbyist questions were not forgotten.

United Airlines is the only airline (that we are aware of) that offers
live air traffic control as an audio channel on its on-board entertainment system. United calls it “From the Flightdeck”, but the live ATC feed is better known for the audio channel it is featured on, and thus “channel 9″.

United’s merger partner, Continental, does not offer channel 9 or anything like it. When asked if United would extend channel 9 to Continental’s aircraft, Smisek had this to say:

I know a lot of our United customers enjoy it. We’ve looked at that and that’s a very expensive addition to our fleet, so I don’t think we’re going to be doing that anytime soon.

Smisek says the Continental-United merger will give it $1.2 billion annual savings “but we have a lot of priorities for that capital.” Pegged amongst other items is a refurbishment of economy class on the carrier’s 747-400 aircraft. Smisek hopes to realise that upgrade by the time United receives its first A350 XWB aircraft in 2016.

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