Updated April 15, 2014
Throughout 2013, we were hard at work installing satellite Wi-Fi
throughout our fleet. In fact, we’ve recently finished outfitting our 200th aircraft to offer global access on our long-haul international fleet and a superior experience on our domestic fleet. Our 200th installation is an important milestone given the complexity of the technology, the costs involved and the time-consuming nature of the installation itself.
Here’s an update on our progress:
Satellite Wi-Fi installation on our Airbus A320s
is complete, and the first Wi-Fi-equipped international Boeing 777
began flying in early March. We plan to have Wi-Fi installed on more than half the planned fleet by this summer, with installations largely complete by the end of 2014 and the following near-term milestones:
• We will complete A319s in May
• We will complete Boeing 747s in June
• We are rapidly installing Wi-Fi on our Boeing 737 fleet with more than one third of 737-900ERs completed. Newly delivered 737-900ERs that have no Wi-Fi or inflight entertainment options will have Wi-Fi installed first followed soon after by personal device entertainment.
To determine if you are on a flight that offers United Wi-FiSM
, check the Inflight Amenities tab of the Flight Status & Information
or on our mobile app
, look for the Wi-Fi logo on the side of the plane or listen for an announcement by the flight crew. For the most up-to-date information on Wi-Fi availability, please visit united.com/Wi-Fi
Take a look at the steps involved in preparing our planes to deliver Internet connectivity in the skies.
As we mentioned earlier, the process of adding satellite Wi-Fi to our planes is a time-consuming and complex one. Here’s what happens over our nine-day installation process as we move from blueprint to outfitted plane.
Day 1: Pre-build outside the aircraft and inside preparations begin: we assemble access platforms, and inventory installation parts and separate them from the pre-built kits to install them in the plane.
Day 2: We continue with the pre-build process, with a focus on wiring of bundles: taking groups of wires that will be run together, combining them into harness, cutting the necessary length outside the aircraft, and then taking the final length into the plane to run from point to point. We build the GCS rack – which is the platform for the two boxes and fan that represent the “brains” of the system – outside the plane before we mount it inside.
Days 3 and 4: The intricate process of wiring into the avionics compartment begins, and we start drilling on the radome, both inside and out. We begin modifications to the antenna power box mounting and start drilling and mounting sheet metal components in cabin interiors and the wiring in the fuselage.
Day 4: Installation in the cargo compartment commences; the cargo compartment contains the GCS rack.
Day 5: Sheet metal assembly begins in the galley and video-storage compartment. A power panel in the galley contains all the circuit breakers used to power and depower both the entire system and the individual components. The video stowage compartment contains the crew panel to monitor the system and the switchbox to allow loading of software from the cabin as well as control over the system.
Days 6 and 7: We finalize the antenna and radome installation.
Day 8: We check the airplane’s electrical integrity. This process, known as the “ring out,” involves sending electrical power through the wires, one at a time, to ensure the signal transmits across the same wire on the other end and to confirm that all wires are hooked up properly.
Day 9: We power on all the electrical components of the airplane and implement the software installation. After the software is loaded, we take the plane outside for an operational check of the system, connecting to the satellite and towing the plane around our maintenance area to ensure it tracks the satellite successfully. We also perform operational checks of all systems on the plane.
At the time of this article, United has installed satellite-based Wi-Fi on 13 Boeing 747s, 36 Airbus 319s and 21 A320s. We expect to complete this project by the end of 2015. Stay up to date on our satellite Wi-Fi progress.