These Two US Airlines Have Plans to Make Flying in Economy Class Better

Recently, economy-class fliers have been exasperated by expensive summer airfares and dwindling in-flight benefits. But at the back of the plane finally have some good news to celebrate: Two of the largest airlines in the US have sweeping plans underway to improve the onboard experience for economy passengers. Both Southwest and United are executing multi-year road maps that will expand their fleets and refresh airline cabins with changes like larger overhead bins, more in-seat power outlets, faster Wi-Fi, and even better in-flight cocktails.

For its part, Southwest announced earlier this month it would be investing $ 2 billion into its all-economy-class planes to modernize cabins for all passengers. “With so much that our customers love about doing business with Southwest, we’re constantly listening to our employees and our customers for improvement opportunities,” Tony Roach, Southwest’s VP of customer experience and customer relations, said in a statement.

United, too, has its “United Next” plan, a major fleet expansion announced last summer that is coming to fruition in 2022. As part of the program, the airline is launching more than 500 new narrow-body planes by 2026. This year , 40 new planes are expected to roll out, and in 2023, an additional 138 jets are scheduled to debut. According to the airline’s estimate, next year their fleet could add approximately one new aircraft every three days.

The improvements may also have larger implications aside from customer satisfaction. United’s “new and improved fleet will help them lower their carbon emissions, which advances their goal of being carbon neutral by 2050,” says Kerry Tan, associate professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business.

As airfares continue to climb and carriers look to tackle issues like ongoing staff and pilot shortages, airlines are looking for new ways to entice travelers to book with them. “Both of these airlines have come to the realization that they need to invest in their onboard products to appeal further to travelers,” says Brett Snyder, an airline expert and founder of Cranky Concierge.

Here are the other notable ways the passenger experience will improve on board these two airlines, even for those seated in coach.

New perks for a more convenient cabin

In addition to launching new planes, both airlines are making upgrades to hundreds of existing aircraft. Among United’s new perks will be in-flight entertainment screens at every seat and new, larger overhead bins, so passengers feel less need to tussle for a place to put their carry-ons.

Southwest is also promising larger overhead bins on its new aircraft — passengers can expect to see the bigger bins on planes delivered to the airline early next year. The Dallas-based carrier will also refresh its in-flight entertainment to “more than double” the selection of free movies by the end of the year; by the end of May, it will roll out an enhanced flight tracker with destination guides customized for each route.

The airline also says each seat on its new planes will have individual USB A and C power ports — an addition that’s particularly important on Southwest, as the airline tells passengers to use their own devices to stream its in-flight entertainment. The new outlets will begin to roll out on Southwest’s Boeing 737 Max planes early next year. “The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected in-flight is a request that we’ve heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our customers,” Roach said.

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