6 Ways United Airlines' New Changes Will Make Flying Better

Every single one of the airline’s planes is getting upgraded

United Airlines

Courtesy of United

As the pandemic fades behind us, United Airlines is pushing forward with one of the most aggressive development plans in the company’s history. It’s just announced a sweeping overhaul to its entire fleet that promises a bright future for passengers, whether that’s aboard shiny new aircraft or retrofitted ones kitted out with top-of-the-line amenities. Here’s everything you need to know about United’s big plan, appropriately called “United Next,” that’s going to improve travelers’ onboard experiences in several major ways.

United just placed the biggest order for new planes in its entire history.

You thought you splurged on your most recent shopping trip? United just purchased 270 new narrowbody planes from Boeing and Airbus (B737 MAX and A321neos, for the avgeeks out there). Now, the airline already has just about as many planes ordered up, meaning that between now and 2026, when the expansion plan is scheduled to be complete, it’ll receive a new plane every three days on average for a total of more than 500 new birds. Though United hasn’t released how much it’s paying for each plane, it has stated that it’ll spend nearly $36 billion on fleet upgrades, per the New York Times.

It’s either retiring or retrofitting the entirety of its existing narrowbody fleet.

It’s out with the old at United—the old regional jets, that is. The airline will retire some 200 of its older, smaller planes to make room for the new order (it currently has more than 800 aircraft in its fleet). All of the remaining single-aisle planes in its fleet will get a total facelift so that they’ll be as pretty as the newcomers. The retrofitting—details below—is slated for completion in just four short years.

Every single United plane is going to have an in-flight entertainment system.

Some time ago, some airlines decided it was a great idea to remove in-flight entertainment systems (IFEs) from the cabins as a cost-saving measure, expecting passengers to use their smartphones or tablets to watch movies or TV shows during their flights. It turns out passengers still want IFEs anyway. (Personally, I like to have the flight map or a live camera feed up on my seatback screen while I watch "The X-Files" on my iPad, but that’s just me.) So United is going to install IFEs on every single one of its planes as part of the retrofitting plan, aligning the airline with Delta, which currently has seatback TVs throughout its mainline fleet, and distancing itself from American, which is just about finished removing IFEs from all of its Boeing 737 aircraft.

Forget fighting for overhead bin space—there’s going to be enough room for everyone’s suitcases.

There’s nothing more frustrating than boarding a plane with your carry-on only to find that there’s no more space in the overhead bins, and you’ll have to gate-check your bag. United’s cabin improvements include a new overhead bin design that guarantees one space for every single passenger. That said, basic economy passengers on domestic United flights still aren’t allowed to have a carry-on bag, so that should free up some more room...

The airline is adding more premium seats into its cabins.

Because United is retiring its smaller regional aircraft and replacing them with bigger narrowbodies, there will be more room for premium cabin seats. On average, United will have 30 percent more total seats per domestic departure and 75 percent more premium seats per North American departure when the upgrades are complete. United elite status holders, this means your upgrades will likely have a better chance of clearing!

The United Next program will create 25,000 jobs.

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom in the headlines about airlines’ staffing issues (ahem, American and Delta), so United’s expectation to create tens of thousands of jobs, from cabin crew to maintenance technicians, is some very welcome news.