Thursday, February 28, 2013

Have you noticed any changes in United Airlines? We did...

We hadn't traveled on United since mid 2012, and were surprised to find several new changes since the UA-CO merger when we traveled to Florida this last week.  The combined companies' united front seems to be shifting their image nicely, well, for the most part. But change is inevitable, and for the most part, usually good. Here are some of the changes we noticed...

First, although we didn't have it on any of our flights, the inflight magazine states that Wifi is being added to 300 planes this year, with goals to have it on 500 planes by 2014 - for more on that, see This is no small feat, since many airports don't even have it, including the hub we transferred through: IAH/Houston Int'l, as well as the two smaller regional airports of HDN/Hayden-Steamboat and RSW/Ft Myers Beach. Personally, we're not quite sure why Wifi isn't a standard free service yet for all companies' customers like it is at many hotels (including the one we stayed at in FMB). Heck, if Starbucks can do it across the country so should you. Hats off to United for working towards that.

Next, United's mobile app has greatly improved.  In addition to online check in, mobile boarding passes and general information regarding your reservation, the app has been linked up with the favorite Points Inside app to show interior maps of airports, searchable by name. It also shows live up-to-date information on flight delays, arrivals, and even time updates on where your plane is coming from. This proves handy for the seasoned traveler, keeping them more informed than the gate agents even (a notable downside actually). Our flight from IAH to RSW was delayed due to the incoming equipment (plane), and the gate agent couldn't tell us why. With a few clicks, we knew that the equipment was coming in from San Diego and had left 20 minutes late. We deduced that due to the tailwind we'd caught on the way to IAH, the SAN flight would do the same, and sure enough, we left IAH on time.

Also updated is the inflight magazine map which now includes a paw print to mark the location of SARAs (Service Animal Relief Areas), now it just needs to be added to the mobile app - those using SARAs are usually blind, and can't read the inflight magazines, nor (we're assuming) do the gate agents.  Hopefully voice-activated mapping for the blind is coming soon.

Early boarding announcements and protocol keeps changing for the better as well - and United has adopted the "We will now be boarding people with special needs and disabilities" along with the honored men and women in uniform.

We'll be in Chicago in May for our annual disability advisory board meeting, and we'll update you more on that then!

For now, way to go United.

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