Improvements to our on board entertainment and Wi-Fi experience
We know that for a lot of our customers – business and leisure alike – the ability to connect online and use entertainment options while in flight plays an important role in choosing an airline. Having access to a reliable onboard connection is vital for our customers who need to finish up on work, check emails, stay connected or simply stay entertained throughout their entire journey.
United is an industry pioneer in offering satellite Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment (PDE), and we still have the largest fleet of satellite Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft worldwide. Last year, we noticed our Panasonic Wi-Fi product, which is the streaming service on many of our Airbus, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft, wasn't as reliable as we would like, and we are took that as an opportunity to do better by making investments to improve this experience for our customers. Here are a number of steps we have taken and are still taking to do that:
- More connection points - We are working with Panasonic to improve the quality of the Wireless Access Points (WAPs) on all of our Panasonic aircraft. These devices connect the user with the Wi-Fi and PDE on the aircraft. More and better WAPs mean more customers can tap into a strong, steady connection at the same time.
- More bandwidth - We are also installing new broadband controllers on all the aircraft. These units connect the aircraft to the satellite network and will largely solve the outage issues we experience on our Panasonic fleets. In addition, the controllers will also increase throughput by over 20 times and allow for much quicker connection speeds.
- More coverage - Panasonic is also adding satellites to its network, so our customers will benefit from better coverage, speed and bandwidth.
In addition to providing more reliable Wi-Fi, we have also recently expanded our PDE option to all aircraft with DIRECTV live streaming for purchase to provide at least one free entertainment option on all Wi-Fi equipped aircraft (which is any aircraft with more than 70 seats). Between February and April of this year, we installed personal device entertainment onto more than 200 aircraft that previously only offered DIRECTV. Customers can now use a personal laptop, Apple iOS device or Android device to access a library of complimentary movies and TV shows, in addition to having the opportunity to purchase DIRECTV to view live programming.
We are also committed to improving our entertainment options for customers with disabilities. Earlier this year, we began offering a new main menu category on seatback on-demand that is labeled Accessible Entertainment. This new section makes it easier for customers with hearing and vision challenges to find accessible entertainment options, grouping all of the titles that are either audio descriptive or closed captioned in one main menu category. Seatback on-demand is one of our entertainment options available on 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft.
Customers can download the latest United app to access personal device entertainment on Apple or Android mobile devices. They can also visit www.unitedprivatescreening.com to learn about what entertainment options are on their upcoming flight, watch movie trailers and filter content by language, genre, audio description and closed captioning availability.
We are always working on improving our product and making changes that will help us provide the consistent, high-quality connectivity our customers expect. These enhancements are a just a few of the investments we are working on that will improve your customer experience.
In the midst of mobilizing our cargo operations, our teams at New York/Newark (EWR) and Jacksonville (JAX) stepped in to assist Roche Diagnostics with transporting a vital component for an instrument being used for COVID-19 testing.
The component was stuck at EWR en route to the Mayo Clinic in Florida after another airline's flights were cancelled. A Roche employee contacted us asking for help and, within a few hours, our teams had the piece loaded onto a Jacksonville-bound aircraft, with arrangements in place to deliver it to the Mayo Clinic.
The item we shipped will allow the Mayo Clinic in Florida to process hundreds of COVID-19 tests per day. Mayo Clinic Laboratories has been on the front lines of increasing testing capacity to expedite caring for patients at this critical time and working to ease the burden being felt at test processing laboratories in a growing number of areas.
We are going above and beyond to find creative ways to transport fresh food and produce, as well as basic essentials from the U.S. mainland to military and their families in Guam/Micronesia. On Saturday, March 28, we operated an exclusive cargo-only B777-300 charter to transport nearly 100,000 pounds of food essentials to Guam to support our troops.
In addition, we move mail year-round all over the world. In response to COVID-19, and in support of the military members and their families overseas, we implemented a charter network, transporting military mail to Frankfurt, which is then transported all over Europe and the Middle East. Since March 20, we have flown 30,000+ pounds of military mail every day between Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Frankfurt (FRA). On the return flight from Frankfurt to Chicago, we have carried an average of 35,000 pounds of mail to help families stay connected.
"Connecting products and mail to people around the world is the United Cargo mission," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "Keeping our military families connected with the goods they need, and keeping them connected with loved ones to feel a sense of home, is of critical importance. As a company that has long supported our military families and veterans, our teams are proud to mobilize to lend a hand."
On average, we ship more than 1 billion pounds of cargo every year on behalf of domestic and international customers. For more information, visit unitedcargo.com.
To our customers,
I hope this note finds you and your loved ones healthy and well.
It is safe to say these past weeks have been among some of the most tumultuous and emotional that any of us can remember in our lifetimes. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been felt by individuals and families, companies and communities, across the United States and around the world.
The response to this crisis has been extraordinary; as much for what it has required from our society as for what it has revealed of us as a people.
Far from causing division and discord, this crisis and the social distancing it has required, has allowed us to witness something profound and moving about ourselves: our fond and deeply felt wish to be connected with one another.
The role of connector is one we're privileged to play in the moments that matter most in your life – weddings and graduations, birthdays and business trips, events large and small – and it's that responsibility that motivates us most to get back to our regular service, as soon as possible.
That is why it is so important our government acted on a comprehensive relief act to ensure our airline – and our industry – are ready and able to serve you again when this crisis abates.
I want to relay to you, in as deeply personal a way I can, the heartfelt appreciation of my 100,000 United team members and their families for this vital public assistance to keep America and United flying for you.
This support will save jobs in our business and many others. And it allows us time to make decisions about the future of our airline to ensure that we can offer you the service you deserve and have come to expect as our customers.
While consumer demand has fallen, we have seen the need for our service and capabilities shifted. And, we've adapted to help meet those needs.
Right now, aircraft flying the United livery and insignia, flown by our aviation professionals, have been repurposed to deliver vital medical supplies and goods to some of the places that need it most. We're also using several of our idle widebody aircraft to use as dedicated charter cargo flights, at least 40 times per week, to transfer freight to and from U.S. locations as well as to key international business locations. At the same time, we are working in concert with the U.S. State Department to bring stranded Americans who are trying to return home back to their loved ones.
While much remains uncertain right now, one thing is for sure: this crisis will pass. Our nation and communities will recover and United will return to service you, our customers. When that happens, we want you to fly United with even greater pride because of the actions we took on behalf of our customers, our employees and everyone we serve.
Stay safe and be well,
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.