As American Airlines removes the very last of its seat back video screens on Boeing 737 aircraft United Airlines has shared internally that it will go in the opposite direction.
United was already adding seat back video screens to new Boeing 737s and now will retrofit older aircraft so that passengers have screens at their seats.
Live and Let’s Fly was first to report on an internal video to employees in which United’s Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist explained, “Our competition is really, really stiff, especially in our hubs. Our customers actually have a choice. They don’t have to fly United, so we have to make them want to choose United.” As a result the airline plans to,
- Put new seats with video and add larger overhead bins to older aircraft
- Expand some overcrowded United Clubs
- Expand pre-order meals which they began testing two years ago and which some competitors have offered for nearly a decade.
Update: Aviation watchdog JonNYC shares the video,
— ˜”*° JonNYC °*”˜ (@xJonNYC) April 16, 2021
United CEO Scott Kirby isn’t known for passenger experience investments unless they can be clearly shown to move the needle on revenue. He once tried to charge passengers for water as President of US Airways, and oversaw the plan for a new interior without screens as President of American.
He must have determined that United is losing business because of an inferior domestic product, unless he sees the new domestic seats as an opportunity to further densify the cabin (add seats, giving each passenger less space) and screens as a tradeoff to make customers more accepting of the change. Delta for its part has continued doubling down on seat back entertainment as it densified.
Perhaps Scott Kirby is just subtweeting his old employer which let him go? American could have put seat back video in planes that didn’t have it for just the cost overrun on their new headquarters which they probably turned out not to need after cutting the number of management employees by 30%. There continue to be internal factions at the airline that believe removing screens was a mistake. Even American Airlines Executive Vice President Elise Eberwein is disappointed boarding a plane without seat back video.