United May Offer Personal TVs On 737 MAX Aircraft

Filed Under: United

We know that of the “big three” US carriers, Delta is by far the best when it comes to the entertainment they offer inflight. They have personal televisions throughout virtually their entire mainline fleet, and that trend continues even on newly delivered aircraft.

Brand new Delta A220, with TVs at every seat

This is in start contrast to American and United, which are largely eliminating personal televisions from planes. These can be costly to install and add weight to the plane, which in turn increase fuel burn. These airlines are betting on passengers being just as happy bringing their own entertainment devices onto planes. I think they’re wrong. šŸ˜‰

American is the worst when it comes to personal televisions. For quite a while, all of their newly delivered narrow body planes don’t feature personal televisions. Of the big three US carriers, they have the smallest percentage of mainline narrow body aircraft with TVs.

American 737 MAX, without any personal televisions

However, United isn’t much better, and all their newly delivered narrow body planes don’t feature personal televisions either. In particular, this includes their 737 MAX aircraft, of which they have over 120 on order.

It goes without saying that United’s 737 MAX deliveries have paused for a while, given that the plane is grounded globally at the moment.

Well, it seems that this grounding may have caused United to reconsider their strategy when it comes to these planes. PaxEx reports that an internal United document suggests that at least some upcoming Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 10 deliveries will feature personal televisions at every seat. This would be a departure from their current system of only offering streaming content on these planes.

What remains to be seen is if all 737 MAX deliveries going forward would feature these personal televisions, or only a subset of United’s 737 MAX fleet:

  • It could be that United is having a change of heart, and wants to compete more aggressively with Delta when it comes to their onboard product; after all, in some ways the airline is trying to become more premium
  • It could be that United is creating a subfleet of narrow body aircraft; perhaps these will be used for premium markets, or perhaps they’ll be used for longer international routes

For now we’ll have to mark this as “developing,” though it is an interesting direction to see United take.

If United does in fact follow through with this, I’ll be curious to see what it means for American and their commitment to offering a lousy onboard experience.

  1. Well considering no one wants to fly on the 737 MAX they at least have to get peopleā€™s mind off that. I hope this never happens because the 737 MAX simply is not airworthy as these accidents have shown us.

  2. Bring back the seat-back TV’s. As silly as it sounds, that is one reason why I avoid United. I may not watch the TV, but I want to have it as an option. And, please do NOT install Direct TV with those 1980s plastic screens. Just copy Delta with their large generous screens and great content.

  3. United if you are reading this, please go forward with this plan. Your flights that feature TVā€™s are much more pleasant than the ones that donā€™t. Especially on some of your longer domestic routes. Please stop this race to the bottom with AA!

  4. Might as well install TVs into all of them now since there isnā€™t the issue of taking revenue-generating aircraft out of service to do so.

  5. Am I the only one here who far prefers a personal device?

    Save tons of space and tons of fuel.

    Pick any show/movie in the world.

    No annoying interruptions for ads and announcements.

    Familiarity of your own gear (I.e. Bluetooth headphones work, etc.)

    Seems far superior to me

  6. …or it could be a way of Boeing saying, “sorry about the f-ups on the MAX, dont sue us for losses, we’ll throw in some TVs with the new jets.”

  7. United and AA CEOs: “Customers don’t care about things like entertainment and snacks, they love their rock hard seats, minimal seat pitch, and abrasive staff”

    *customers run to Delta, Jetblue and Southwest*

    United and AA CEOs: *surprised Pikachu face*

    (this comment is intended for Lucky’s younger reader base)

  8. Regardless of what they decide to do with seat back entertainment, it is my understanding that they are totally committed to providing grumpy flight attendants on at least 80% of their flights for the foreseeable future.

  9. “*customers run to Delta, Jetblue and Southwest*”

    Except Southwest doesn’t have IFE, and Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant have solid revenue gains and profits. Is it worth the extra premium to fly Delta and JetBlue? I would argue not, especially considering the prevalence of tablets and phones with pre-downloaded entertainment. People aren’t flying American and United not because they don’t have those things, but because they don’t have those things and their pricing is not nearly aggressive enough.

  10. I stopped flying AA because thereā€™s no seatback IFEs and no plug ins for my devices, the pitch is shrinking and their new first class and oasis is horrible. While Deltas SkyMiles suck, they at least have better seats, seatback IFE and give you the option to upgrade cheaper than it is to buy the first class seat outright. If AA gets seatback IFE and installs power ports at every seat, Iā€™d switch back.

  11. @skypesos,

    IIRC, the original report, by Seth Miller (NO relation to me), of PaxEx, also said Unitedā€™s *rumored* (as it has not been confirmed by the airlineā€™s spokespeople or disclosed via any type of official document such as a Press Release or updated filing with the SEC) newly revised fleet plan now includes the 737-8 MAX.

    However, Miller said it was unclear if the -8 models were new orders/conversion of options in addition to the larger -9s/-10s already on the books – or if the -8s were a reshuffling from within the existing order of larger models with overall total units ordered remaining unchanged.

  12. @ Daniel – No, you’re not the only one. I actually vehemently disagree with Lucky’s assertions that the hallmark of superior service is having PTVs at every seat. I personally LOVE bringing my own device on Alaska flights and streaming content for free, or watching my own content I’ve loaded. PTVs are way over rated and worthless, but that’s my personal travel preference and understand others may have differing opinions. And while the big 3 also have differing opinions, Alaska spent considerable time listening to customers from both VX and AS on this subject and overwhelmingly, customers preferred bringing their own devices if they could view content for free. To say an airline listening to its customers is wrong, is, well…wrong.

  13. “Sean, United is competing with Delta, not Spirit.”

    Last time I checked when I did a search for flights there was no button for legacies and one for ULCC’s. And clearly by advertising basic economy fares, they ARE attempting to compete with to some extent ULCC’s.

  14. I love the picture of the DL flight: ~80% of the people are watching the built-in screen, none are using their tiny smartphone screens.

    I guess there’s only one @Kelly that “LOVE[s] bringing [her] own device”; I have not met such a person ever.

    By the way, why do AA shareholders permit idiots to run their airline?

  15. @Daniel

    I don’t know how often you fly but I do know I prefer having a choice.

    Now for PED in my experience.
    The big problem is power, for someone constantly on the move, having enough power is essential. Not everyone is willing to haul a big fat heavy power bank with them all day.
    – USB not power enough to charge and watch tablets, phone maybe, not tablets.
    – The 100-230v is hit or miss. Not just about having it, but does your adapter fit? 3 out of 5 the socket is too lose, my charger wont stay plugged.

    Then there are no tablet holder for older planes.

    And another issue for those who stream and didn’t download.
    You actually cannot ignore the PA. During announcement, your movie would pause.
    Then there is also quality issues. Sometimes movies buffer incorrectly and skips a few seconds.

    My headphone works with all sorts of device. Yours doesn’t come with cables?

    Only thing I wish to use my own device is when I want to watch stuff in 4K. Just plain HD at 30,000 feet seems a fair compromise to me.

    So BYOD seems far inferior to me.

  16. I dont care if you have free drinks, food and dancing girls. Will not be flying a Max ever. Not solely because it may become a lawn dart. But because Boeing knew about the design flaw. And allowed the death of people that trusted the manafacturer and the FAA. Both of which completely failed at their jobs.

  17. As my 737MAX flight is climbing steeply and then nosediving, and climbing steeply and then nosediving, and the crashing into the sea or ground, I would be pleased as punch to remind myself that I have a personal TV in the seat-back in front of me for my face to smash into before I meet my demise.

    Great work, United.

  18. I flew on an American A 321 yesterday between LGA and DFW and was (happily) shocked (It doesn’t happen that often) to see a PTV at every seat with an even larger movie choice than on their 777s / 787-9, plus FAs going through the whole cabin with free earphones.

    The plane looked extremely new, which made me wonder whether AA was having a change of hearts. Later in the flight, I had a short talk with a friendly (again, !!!!!) FA who told me that she increasingly flies on fully PTV equipped mainline narrow bodies.

    Chance ? Wishful thinking everywhere? I have no idea. Does anybody have more info ?

  19. I like DirecTV flights, not just screens. But bringing back Channel 9 would be even better, and lighter.

  20. Get a free TV with your certain death – great move. I for one will NEVER step onto a 737 MAX whatever they change the name to, even if that means abruptly turning around on the sky bridge with baggage in the hold. Just cancel the whole program and start again with a properly designed air-frame that can handle modern large diameter engines. If the FAA ever clears that coffin for flight again, it will take just one more crash (inevitable sooner or later) and it’s all over for Boeing. Half of the 787 production is dodgy too – the SC half. Thank goodness Qatar insists on 787s from the decent factory only. Too much profit before safety – the contemporary American story – end of empire stuff !!!

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