As the cost of flying continues to increase—led lately by rapidly rising fuel prices—United Airlines hopes to woo fare-paying passengers to its airline using a new technique: iPod-friendly seats. The seats feature an iPod docks that can support both standard iPod and Apple’s iPhone and a 15.4-inch display for playing back video and other personal entertainment.
United plans to introduce the iPod-enabled seats first on its international flights over the next two years; the first iPod-enabled flight was #936 from Washington D.C. to Zurich, Switzerland. The iPod seats will be available to first-class and business-class customers—anyone flying coach will still have to deal with their iPod’s built-in screen and figure out some way to recharge the device mid-flight.
United is boosting amenities in an effort to inspire customer loyalty in an era when operational costs are eating into the company’s bottom line. United plans to introduce in-seat on-demand entertainment as well as lie-flat seats for first-class and business class customers as well. Although airlines have traditionally offered some sort of in-flight entertainment on longer international runs, United’s move is an acknowledgment that many passengers now bring their entertainment with them on the plane, and prefer to watch that to badly-edited, poorly-projected out-of-theater films at the front the cabin. Of course, the airlines will now have to figure out how to deal with customers bringing media on board that may not be appreciated by fellow travelers.
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