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After years of development and delays, it looks like United is finally getting ready to roll out an updated website. Although the current website is still fully functional, anyone can access the new homepage now. TPG contributor Richie Cardinale takes an early look at United’s new site.
Compared to the previous version of United’s website, the new beta version appears to be much more user-friendly. The homepage has a clean, modern look, and it feels much speedier than its predecessor. MileagePlus members can’t miss the oversized call-to-action that guides them directly to the members area of the webpage — colored in the airline’s signature gold scheme, it’s a very nice touch.
As someone who enjoys earning and using miles and points, I can really appreciate the fact that the MileagePlus drop-down menu, full of information on the loyalty program, is located directly at the top of the website for easy access. Unfortunately, once you click through to any of the sub-menu options, you’re taken back to the old United site.
At first glance, the new reservations page is a huge improvement over the current website. Whether you type in your origin, destination and dates from the homepage or click through to the advanced booking page seen above, you’ll find user-friendly fields and a seamless booking process.
Large buttons guide travelers through the numerous booking options including trip type, award travel options and fare preferences — you can even enable an option to show the number of miles you’ll earn in the search results page.
Another feature that I personally enjoy is the “recent search” drop-down menu, which is located at the top of the reservations page. When you’re planning multiple trips simultaneously, this feature allows you to leave a reservation and then revisit it with only one click of your mouse, which is a huge time-saver.
Award search results pop up quickly, and the same partners appear to be represented on the new site. Fortunately, you can easily avoid United flights by selecting only “Star Alliance” in the “Experience” section on the left side of the page.
United has definitely come a long way with this new website, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product in the coming weeks. The airline has made huge improvements when it comes to user experience and ease of use, which is great to see. The coolest feature of the new site is the ability to sort and filter your flight preferences for your upcoming trip. Travelers can book a reservation based on Wi-Fi availability, aircraft type, preferred connection cities, and even in-seat power. You can also view a seat map directly from the search results page.
A Work in Progress
Obviously, the biggest issue right now is that many of the beta pages redirect to the old United website. You can get all the way through the booking process using only the beta site, but if you want to view a list of current reservations, make changes to your MileagePlus account, view detailed flight status info or even check in for a flight, you’ll be redirected to the appropriate page on the old website.
Also, I was surprised to see that the website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, though that may be coming soon. Initially when I viewed the new beta version of the website on my iPhone, the text was far too small to read, and after I double-tapped to zoom in a needed to scroll back and forth to find the features I was looking for. Of course, you can download United’s apps for a better mobile experience, but if you’re not a frequent flyer you may opt for the browser version, instead.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the new site. I’m going to keep an open mind since the current iteration is clearly still in beta, but it’s definitely a pain to hop back and forth between the new and old layout depending on which features you’re trying to access. Still, based on this work in progress, I feel good about what’s to come.
Let us know what you think of the beta United website in the comments below.