It was just under a year ago that the “United Next” fleet upgrade program launched with United Airlines, promising a massive shift in the on-board experience for its single-aisle fleet. And, while the company remains optimistic on the overall trajectory of the project, supply chain issues are making the road to completion far more challenging than initially planned.
We here at United do not think streaming to your own device is good enough. – United Airlines‘ Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist
A company spokesperson confirms United now flies 16 aircraft with the United Next interior. All 16 are new deliveries. Zero planes have completed a retrofit so far. While suggesting that the program is “still on-track to complete the overall project outlined in our June 2021 announcement by end of 2025.”
But in the short term the carrier is “working through schedules and how that tracks against the year-to-year goals.”
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While no party involved will confirm on the record that the delays are tied to supply chain woes, PaxEx.Aero understands that Panasonic Avionics (PAC) is struggling to source chips necessary to boost production of the in-seat hardware for the “Next” retrofit program.
PAC is maintaining delivery pace for new installs. It also appears to be managing for United’s 767-400 Polaris retrofit, with the first reconfigured plane entering service this summer. But the single-aisle retrofit program remains sidelined for now.
For its part, Panasonic Avionics declined to comment on any specific airline program progress.
United Next calls for installation of a new signature interior that includes seat-back entertainment, powered by Panasonic Avionics at every seat. A new in-flight WiFi kit from Viasat is also part of the plan. Larger overhead bins and a bright look-and-feel with LED lighting will also be part of the new cabins. At the time of the announcement United expected the work to be “66% complete by 2023 and 99% complete by the summer of 2025.”
Chief Commercial Officer Toby Enqvist hinted at the program launch a late 2024 completion could be possible.
EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella also offered up confidence in the aggressive conversion timeline, noting the work is “about lining up the vendors ahead of time and the supply chain to make that happen. We’ve carefully constructed that to ensure that the delays don’t happen again.”
Alas, it seems that supply chain has faltered. And no one is quite certain when it will be stable again, at least not that they’re willing to share.
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