United Plans $550 Million Revamp

United Airlines Logo & PlaneUnited Airlines has announced that it will be revamping its aircraft seats and making other improvements over the next couple of years. After the airline merged with Continental Airlines last October, creating United Continental Holdings, they focused on new logos and painting planes. The merger is bringing 1,300 more workers to Chicago by the end of next year, and the group is seeking a single operating certificate by the end of the year from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, signs remain of two separate carriers in other areas.

Chief executive Jeff Smisek was featured in a welcome video on board, explaining the merger. Customers signed up with the elite programmes offered by United now have to share the status with the elite passenger programmes offered by Continental. With the earlier boarding call being popular, many found that the queue was a little longer following the merger. The planes also feel like they are operated by separate carriers.

However, on Sunday, United Continental said that it plans to spend $550 million on improving the group’s customer experience, creating consistency that combines the best offerings from both airlines. Some of the changes will be seen by customers on over 600 of the group’s 708 planes as soon as next month. Most of the improvements are expected to be finished in 2013.

As part of the revamp, the flatbeds that are used by Continental Airlines will now be used in Economy Plus seating on United aircraft. United Continental will also make air traffic control audio available on Continental’s planes. Both will offer other upgrades too, including wireless video on Boeing 747s and wireless internet on over 200 Boeing 737s and 757s. The group says that it will more than double the overhead space on over 150 planes as well. This change means that 30 to 40 more rolling bags will be able to fit per flight on A319s and A320s.

United Continental is also working on integrated check-in kiosks, on-board snack menus, new boarding passes, and combining frequent-flier schemes. United is trying out airport staffing models to decide on how to handle a multitude of departing flights.

After all is said and done, the biggest airline in the world will have more flatbeds than any other airline in the US. It will also have more extra legroom seating in economy than any other carrier in the world. The United unit is choosing a company to provide its streaming in-flight video services, which will give passengers access to video content on any wireless device. Continental previously announced signing a letter of intent with LiveTV for the installation of broadband wireless on its Boeing 757s and 737s. Following all the changes and gaining a single operating certificate from the FAA, the Continental brand will disappear.



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