On Tuesday I wrote that United Airlines had begun the process of retrofitting domestic planes to offer more premium seats, seat back entertainment screens (with bluetooth connectivity), larger overhead bins, and faster wifi.
The plan for “United NEXT” was announced a year and a half ago, and they’re only now doing prototypes. However they are going to proceed very rapidly to update their fleet from this point forward.
A note from CEO Scott Kirby to customers later on Tuesday said, “And we’re also upgrading our existing single-aisle fleet and plan to retrofit about 100 planes this year.” However a United Airlines tipster shares,
Once the initial prototypes are done for each fleet type, the plans are to get through the planes relatively quickly. There will be three locations with multiple lines each to do the work.
There should be approximately 175 planes retrofitted this year (initially planned for 200). Combined with the close to 170 new planes last year and this year, there should be close to 350 planes with new interiors this year, with more deliveries and retrofits into next year.
The idea that United Airlines could convert 175 domestic aircraft in 2023 seems unbelievable at first, considering they haven’t completed changes to prototype aircraft yet. However this is a scaled back ambition from 200 planes, and it’s not a notional number but one that’s tied to a real plan. It could still slip, but having over 300 planes including new aircraft with the new interior in service this year is a real possibility.