United Airlines has enabled in-flight streaming entertainment on the majority of its Airbus A320-family fleet, as it works towards offering entertainment on all of its mainline aircraft by the end of 2015.

The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier has enabled the service on 72%, or 110 aircraft, of the 152 A319s and A320s in its fleet since early July, says Jeff Foland, executive vice-president of marketing, technology and strategy at United, on the sidelines of the Boyd Group International Aviation Summit in Las Vegas today.

Streaming entertainment is also active on all 23 of the Boeing 747-400s and some of the 74 Boeing 777-200s, for example the aircraft that fly to Hawaii, in United’s fleet, he says.

“This is rolling out very quickly,” says Foland.

Streaming entertainment is available for free through the United app or in a web browser with embedded advertising. Passengers do not need to purchase wi-fi to access the content.

United began testing the system on select 777s in May. However, expansion to the A319s, A320s and 747s did not occur until July.

“The time consuming part was laying down all the infrastructure, which is coterminous with the wi-fi infrastructure,” says Foland on the lag between the beta launch and wider roll-out.

United has completed installation of wi-fi on all of its A320-family, 747, and Boeing 757-200 premium service (PS) fleets, its website shows. It plans to add wi-fi to all of its Boeing 737 fleet by June 2015 and its non-PS 757, Boeing 767-300ER, and 777 fleets by July 2015.

The airline does not have a date for installation of wi-fi on its Boeing 787 fleet. However, it plans to take 787-9s with wi-fi capabilities installed at the factory when deliveries begin in the coming weeks.

When asked whether wi-fi would be installed on the 70- and 76-seat regional jets, for example the Embraer 175, in United’s regional fleet like at competitors American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, Foland says: “We have not made such a decision. We’re evaluating, stay tuned.”

United is also adding power outlets to seats across its mainline aircraft. Foland says that United will add outlets “where appropriate” on aircraft in its fleet, which includes in seats from the exit rows forward on the A319s and A320s.

The carrier has previously said that it plans to complete the outlet retrofits by the end of 2015. Foland does not provide an updated timeline.

The in-flight experience upgrades are part of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in investment in customer-facing amenities that United has made since 2011, says Foland.

Industry group Airlines for America (A4A) found that US carrier made $7 billion in capital investments, including in aircraft and customer-facing amenities, in the first half of 2014. This follows $12.4 billion invested during 2013.

American and Delta are also investing in their fleet and product, including new aircraft and updated in-flight amenities.

“It has been a rather tumultuous decade and the airline sector in general has not been able to invest [in product] as consistently as it would like, ourselves included,” said Foland in 2013.

Source: Cirium Dashboard