Proclaiming that the Boeing 787 was well worth the wait United Airlines today unveiled the twinjet’s interior to great fanfare. But behind the scenes, the carrier has been pressing the airframer to cut into production and start installing the latest-generation inflight entertainment systems as well as airborne connectivity on the long-delayed aircraft.
Like so many 787 customers, United (then Continental) placed its order for IFE and seats a number of years ago (these were selected from the 787 catalogue). Since that time, the industry has seen rapid advancements in onboard technology. For instance, new integrated IFE/seats for economy class are now all the rage. United has been retrofitting Boeing 767-400s with Panasonic Avionics’ sleek new Eco 9i smart monitor integrated into B/E Aerospace’s popular Pinnacle slimline seat; the carrier wanted to roll out the same on its new 787, which features a nine abreast economy-class cabin.
But Boeing has been understandably reticent to do anything that would cause further delivery delays. Consequently United has had to accept a more dated interior for the twinjet for now, though Boeing is expected to ultimately cut into production and add the new integrated monitors (see David Parker Brown’s photo of the current seats and IFE).
Bringing inflight high-speed Internet to passengers on the 787 could take longer. Late last year United contracted Panasonic to provide Ku-band satellite-supported connectivity on its 787s, as well as on its Boeing 747s, 757s, 767s, 777s, Airbus A319s and A320s; LiveTV had already won the business to fit the Continental portion of United’s fleet with Ka-band connectivity.
To date, Boeing has not made Ku-band connectivity linefit offerable on the 787.
A United spokesman tells the APEX editor’s blog that a cut-in date for the Eco 9i and Pinnacle seat has still be be determined. He says a cut-in date for connectivity has also not been set, but the carrier is “working aggresively with Boeing on this”.
United’s current 787 economy product features a 32in pitch. Economy Plus retains the same nine abreast configuration as economy, but provides a 35in pitch, according to the United spokesman. The width of these seats is 17.3in.
The carrier’s BusinessFirst section as expected features Continental’s common international seat product.
United today tweeted that it will initially operate the 787 domestically, then between Denver and Tokyo Narita. It says further route announcements are forthcoming.