United Airlines has struck a deal with Panasonic Avionics that could make flying in economy more bearable. No, it will not magically make the seats wider or the leg room bigger, but it will distract you with a larger, sharper in-flight entertainment display and — some will perhaps find this even more exciting — Bluetooth. The airline has announced that it’s installing almost 300,000 units of Panasonic Avionics’ Astrova in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens on select new Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft.
They’re seatback displays that use 4K OLED technology, which promises sharper image quality and better contrast ratio than a lot of other IFE systems. The company says Astrova can also provide high fidelity 3D spatial audio through its latest Bluetooth technology. Yep, you won’t need to use wired headphones anymore or bring one of those Bluetooth dongles just so you could use your wireless earbuds. Astrova also comes with USB-C ports capable of charging your phones and tablets with 100 watts of DC power.
As Aviation Week notes, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR planes are part of United’s international fleet, but the airline will reportedly equip its domestic planes with Astrova IFE systems, as well. The displays will be installed under the United Next program, which aims to put a seatback in-flight display at every seat. United plans to provide first class passengers access to 13-inch displays and passengers in economy with 10-inch IFE screens.
In their announcement, the companies said their agreement will allow United to upgrade the Astrova displays over the coming years. The IFE system uses a modular architecture with a removable peripheral bar that makes it easy to add newer technologies and update its Bluetooth or charging stations. No upgrade will be happening anytime soon, though — the airline isn’t scheduled to start installing the in-flight entertainment systems until 2025.
Author: Mariella Moon