United Airlines’ Awesome New Virtual Cabin Tours

Filed Under: United

It sure seems to me like on the whole people put more effort than ever before into airline seat selection. This isn’t surprising for several reasons:

  • We’ve seen more websites and guides dedicated to picking the best seats on planes
  • With economy seats on average being about as uncomfortable as ever, people want to do what they can to select the best seats
  • Many airlines charge for seat assignments or have different “categories” of seats in a cabin, so if people are going to pay to assign seats, they want to be sure they’re getting good ones

For the most part airline seat maps don’t have all that much information about what you should actually expect from your seat. We’ve seen some online travel agencies integrate SeatGuru data into their seat maps, but even that isn’t perfect, as I find SeatGuru is often wrong.

So United has just rolled out something very cool that I’d love to see more airlines adopt — United Airlines now lets you get a virtual tour of the cabin you book before your flight. They’ve initially rolled this out on their brand new CRJ-550, though plan to roll this out for more planes soon.

During the booking process you can click the “3D View of the aircraft” button (you can also see it on the fleet page of United’s website). Note that this doesn’t appear on the search page, but rather only appears on the booking page, after you’ve entered your personal info.

At that point you can get a full virtual tour of the cabin, which lets you see all kinds of things that may help you determine which seat is best, like how much room there is in the bulkhead row, how far your seat is from the bathroom, etc.

Here’s a video United put together showcasing this new feature:

I really love this concept, and hope more airlines introduce this functionality. While some airlines have some sort of cabin tours, this is incredibly comprehensive and also well integrated into the booking process.

Would you find it useful if more airlines introduced virtual tours of their planes?

  1. Still can’t touch their TATL “joint venture” partners’ seat assignments, but good thing they spent the time creating a 3D version of SeatGuru!

    Ben, can you consider researching an objective comparison of US carrier status tiers, looking at less well known but important considerations? i.e. JV partner seat assignments, minimum time to reach agent, online SDC/standby ability, etc.

    Example: JV partner seat assignments
    Delta Diamond: all Y seats (including priority) allocated free on KL/AF. Must call agent.
    United 1K: all Y seats charged on LH, no fee waiver. LX seatmap blocked until 24 hour window if booked on UA stock, regardless of marketing carrier.
    Winner: Delta

  2. United Airlines definitely leads when it comes to IT and providing travelers with more information. I’ve always loved how their website and app show a seat map of the airplane and details about amenities. Many airlines only show you flight status and gate info.

  3. I dont know. I feel UA wasted a potential advantage here. What would have been bad about filling the plane with something like 36″ in economy? People would have preferred this I think.

  4. This is great if it helps people, especially business class passengers, avoid surprises. It’s often hard for casual flyers to keep up with all the different types of seats.

  5. Virgin Australia did this with their 777 cabin updates years ago! Still nice when picking seats for that flight.

  6. Online virtual “tours” of homes are now pretty common, so why not in airline cabins to help with seat selections? Just need some ceiling-based shots looking down, along with strategically place 360-deg floor-level shots (eg, from aisles) as well. All other major USA airlines should start to do this, as well!

  7. @John

    What would have been bad about filling the plane with something lie flat aisle access for economy? People would have preferred this I think.

    Airlines won’t do it. It’s crazy.
    Cost and Price John, remember that.

    And here is your objective comparison of US carrier status tiers.

    For all flyers of US carrier with any status.
    1. Try do it yourself online, if you can’t.
    2. Call agent, if they can’t.
    3. Hang up, call again, if still can’t.
    4. You can’t, stop trying.

    Your status would greatly affect call hold time and increase your chances of fulfilling your request.

  8. I wonder if they have a feature so you could be virtually beaten and dragged off the overbooked plane.

    Go United!

  9. @Ivan — “I wonder if they have a feature so you could be virtually beaten and dragged off the overbooked plane.” —

    Uh … you do recall that the people who dragged the doctor off of that United flight were ORD security officers, who did not even have the proper jurisdiction to go aboard that aircraft, right? Chicago PD had the actual jurisdiction to handle that situation, but were not present! United personnel did not participate in that dragging operation!

    So you should be blaming ORD Security for that incident, not United!

  10. @Ivan The good Doctor could have avoided this if he complied. or any of the shocked passengers could have volunteered instead. Lots of blame to go around.

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