United Airlines adding iPads at Newark airport gates, revolutionizes food ordering

Nearly 6,000 customized iPads will be installed at United's Northeast hub, letting fliers track flights and order food

If you’ve sat waiting for a flight at Newark Liberty International Airport, and you’re flying with United Airlines, then you’ll soon have a new way to pass the time – the airline is adding a bank of iPads at the departure gates and inside restaurants, letting travelers browse the Web, keep an eye on flight information and of course make a few online purchases along the way.

According to Bloomberg, the upgrade is going to cost in the region of $120 million and will involve the introduction of 6,000 new iPads and 10,000 power outlets to provide them with juice over the next 18 months. It’s part of a wider revamp of the airport’s facilities as it looks to keep pace with the nearby New York terminals.

United Airlines is partnering with OTG Management to implement the upgrade, and OTG has previously worked on similar projects at terminals in JFK and LaGuardia airports (OTG is taking over food service for the entire terminal). If you are tempted to buy something from one of the nearby shops while you’re waiting to board a plane, you shouldn’t have to wait too long – United is promising a 15-minute delivery window for someone to get your newly purchased item to you. You can also order food directly from the iPads, and pay using a credit card or United frequent-flier miles. Gone are the typical fast food joints you see in all airports; in their place are eateries helmed by the world’s top chefs including Alain Ducasse, Marc Forgione, Elizabeth Faulkner, and Jacque Torres.

“From our perspective what we’re looking for, and what we look for in all of our hubs, is something that’s going to be a benefit for our customers — something that’s going to make the time they spend in the airport more productive, more enjoyable, comfortable,” said United spokeswoman Mary Clark in an interview with Bloomberg.

If any airport needs new ways to keep passengers diverted while they’re waiting at the departure gates, it’s perhaps Newark International: According to figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the airport is currently ranked 26th out of a list of 29 for punctual take-offs.

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