United Drops Details of Their New First Class

Seats, United

United employees were given a sneak preview of what to expect with the airline’s new international First Class seat in an internal communication today. There is a lot of fluff in there (“The whole First Class experience is being developed to be industry-leading” . . . blah blah blah), so I’ll just give the highlights here:

*The new United First Suite will make its debut beginning in the fourth quarter of 2007 on international, wide-body aircraft.

*The United First Suite reclines to multiple angles or serves as a fully flat 6-foot, 6-inch long bed which fulfills requests by customers for more privacy and a versatile area to work or relax.

*The suite also provides a cutting-edge entertainment system, with an individual 15.4-inch widescreen flat panel monitor and an on-demand digital video and music system that offers multiple selections of movies, TV programs and video games.

*Customers will have their choice of 50 channels of XM-branded audio delivering more than 3,000 songs and a jukebox to create customized playlists. Both the entertainment system navigation controls and content will be offered in several languages.

The suites also provide:
* a 110-volt universal plug for laptop power, compatible with power outlets for 145 countries;
* a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port to charge personal electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants, cell phones and digital cameras;
* multiple stowage compartments to accommodate a laptop bag and other personal items;
* noise-canceling headphones; and
* an Apple iPod connector that enables customers to play their own music and video content through the suite’s entertainment system, as well as recharge the iPod unit.

My initial reaction is that the seat doesn’t seem to be anything special, but there are some nice inflight entertainment-related enhancements here like the regular 110 volt outlet, USB power supply and iPod connector. My problem here is that if it weren’t for the neglect over the years, the United First Suite that’s out there currently would still be a very competitive product.

It’s the business class seat that is way behind, and that’s what everybody is waiting to see released. Unfortunately, in today’s communication, the only word about the new business class seats was: “Plans are also in place to upgrade our business class seats and onboard services.”

Great, thanks. It would make sense for the business class seat to have the same inflight entertainment system but probably with a smaller screen. It’s the seat that I’m most interested in here though. Let’s also keep our fingers crossed that the airline decides to put seatback inflight entertainment in coach on the 747s as well. There is no excuse for having overhead screens on long haul flights anymore.

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