United Airlines spends $500M to improve seats

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines plans to invest more than $500 million to improve seating on its planes and to create the same look and feel across its fleet. United and Continental merged last year and this is just one part of the two companies’ integration.

The airline will be adding flat-bed seats to first and business class cabins on long-haul aircraft, increasing overhead bin space on some jets and adding Wi-Fi to other planes.

Former Continental planes will get Economy Plus seating — a coach section with more legroom — and Channel 9, which allows passengers to listen to air traffic control conversations with pilots. The airlines says that by the end of the year 38 planes will have undergone the change with nearly 100 more to be done by the end of March 2012. First and Economy Plus seating will also be added this fall to 29 Bombardier Q400 regional aircraft operated under the United Express banner. The turboprops fly principally out of Houston, Chicago, Newark, N.J. and Washington D.C.

Beginning in March 2012, the airline will nearly double the size of the overhead bins on all 152 of the Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft flown by the old United. This will allow for 40 extra bags on the planes.

In September, United will begin installing new flat-bed seats, on-demand audio and video in the premium cabins of 12 Continental 767-400s and 14 United 767-300s.

As previously announced, the airline has contracted with inflight entertainment provider LiveTV to install Wi-Fi using Ka-band satellite technology on more than 200 Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft equipped with DirecTV. LiveTV is a subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corp.

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