United's Promising Huge Wi-Fi Improvements in 2018
United's Wi-Fi experience is... not great. In fact, it's so not great that the airline sent out an email to customers announcing big improvements beginning in 2018. From my experience, the 737 fleet with ViaSat Ka-band Wi-Fi and even the transcon 757s with Gogo have offered decent-to-excellent performance, however I can't say the same for any of United's planes with Panasonic satellite internet, which I've found to be basically unusable recently.
I had a chance to chat with Panasonic executives at the APEX conference in October, and I was told that the company's preparing to roll out a massive connectivity overhaul with several of its partner airlines, including United. Now it seems that United's confident enough in the timeline to communicate this resolution directly to its customers.
According to United, these improvements will roll out to the airline's Airbus fleet, in addition to Boeing 767s, 777s, 787s and the 757s used for flights to Europe and some transcons. Among other tweaks, we can expect:
- New (and more) wireless access points on Airbus planes beginning in January 2018 and other Panasonic-equipped aircraft by May 2018. United recently completed this process with its domestic 777s, which are already seeing a 130% boost in available capacity, apparently.
- New modems on all aircraft, which are expected to boost throughput by over 20 times current speeds, which would be phenomenal if it pans out as expected.
- More Panasonic satellites, though this component is out of the airline's hands, unfortunately.
Some good has come of these Wi-Fi issues, however — a couple months ago I decided to donate any miles I received as compensation for the rest of the year, and so far 50,000 miles have made their way to a handful of charities, including the Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
If you've been experiencing Wi-Fi issues I suggest letting the airline know, and, if you'd like, you can donate them instantly to an organization in need here. That said, I'm looking forward to actually being able to get some work done on my United flights soon. These improvements couldn't come too soon!