‘Fasten your seat belts, raise your tray table, and disconnect your Bluetooth headsets from the entertainment unit’

United Airlines buys 200 planes — plans to give ’em ten inches of entertainment and a double dose of wireless

US-based mega-airline United Airlines has announced it will purchase 200 new planes — a mixture of Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 Neos — and equip the lot with in-seat Bluetooth.

United has promised its new fleet will boast “the industry’s fastest available in-flight WiFi that lets customers stream video from online services.

“The aircraft also will have Bluetooth technology throughout for easy connections between wireless headphones and the seatback entertainment screens.”

The cost of the WiFi service has not been revealed.

Nor has whether cabin crew will be trained in Bluetooth troubleshooting. The Register mentions that skill as the universe of Bluetooth audio kit is enormous, and not all of it plays well with others.

With the new fleet comprised largely of planes with 200 or more seats, that’s a lot of potential for frustrated punters to complain that they can’t enjoy the ten-inch screens that will be installed in every 737 economy class seat. And what a first-class passenger will make of being unable to tune in to the 13-incher their extra fare pays for remains unknowable — but almost certainly won’t be pleasant.

United plans to have 40 members of its new fleet in the air by the end of 2022, before it ramps up with 138 additions in 2023. 2022 therefore looks like a year of Bluetooth debugging.

The airline has touted its fleet refresh as both a shot in the arm for the US economy, and an endorsement of its post-pandemic resilience. It’s also claimed the new planes will reduce frustration, by guaranteeing a slot in an overhead bin for every passenger. ®

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