United Airlines to begin offering wireless IFE later this year

Washington DC
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

United Airlines will offer wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) content on more than 200 aircraft by mid-2014, says the carrier in a news release.

The Chicago-based airline expects to offer hundreds of on-demand movies and television shows via passengers’ portable devices, in addition to wi-fi connectivity. Aircraft types outfitted by mid-2014 include the Airbus A319, A320, Boeing 747 and “other fleets,” says the carrier. Roll-out of the service will begin by the end of this year, says United. Live television in-flight entertainment is installed in the seatbacks of 200 aircraft today.

United is progressing with installations at a rate of about 30 aircraft per month at more than five locations, says the airline. It has outfitted 100 aircraft with wi-fi connectivity so far and plans to complete 200 installations by the end of the year. It expects to outfit the entire fleet by December 2014.

The carrier has agreements with Panasonic Avionics to install the Ku-band system on more than 300 aircraft and is upgrading its 13 premium service Boeing 757s with Gogo's ATG-4 air-to-ground system. It has a contract with LiveTV and ViaSat to install high-speed Ka-band internet on more than 200 Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft.

United will introduce the first 737-900 installed with ViaSat and LiveTV’s Ka-band connectivity before the year’s end, says the airline. LiveTV received the supplemental type certificate to install the equipment on the aircraft type in late September. The carrier will also outfit its Boeing 757-300s that now have DirecTV in each seatback with the service as well, beginning in mid-2014.

The Chicago-based carrier continues to expect it will complete installations on 200 aircraft by the end of 2013, a figure outlined by Jason Flint, United’s senior manager, interiors and in-flight entertainment at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) expo last month.

During that panel, Flint had said that the carrier had originally planned to complete 300 of the installations from multiple wi-fi providers. About 100 of those were delayed due to the FAA’s increased scrutiny for tests of large antennas and radomes for bird strikes. Flightglobal reported in April that the issue was affecting Delta Air Lines’ Ku-band installations from Gogo.