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United launches free inflight messaging trial on select planes

April 07, 2021
2 min read
United launches free inflight messaging trial on select planes
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Staying connected while flying with United might be getting much easier.

The Chicago-based carrier will pilot a free inflight messaging trial, giving select flyers the option to connect to various internet-based chat platforms without needing to purchase a Wi-Fi package.

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Only certain pre-downloaded apps are eligible for the pilot, including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. The free messaging functionality excludes sending SMS texts, photos, videos, as well as web browsing.

Note that the pilot is limited to flights between April 12 and April 18 on a subset of Boeing 737-900ER aircraft. Specifically, it'll be available on what United dubs the "37K" variant, of which the carrier has more than 120 in its fleet. You can check the aircraft assigned to your route roughly two days before your flight using the United mobile app or website. Click on "amenities" and check if it lists "free messaging."

United's 737-900ER fleet is equipped with both Thales and ViaSat Wi-Fi satellites, and the free trial will work on both variants.

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Connecting to the free messaging service takes just three easy steps, as follows:

  1. Join the United Wi-Fi network
  2. Go to unitedwifi.com
  3. Click on the "free messaging" option

United's positioning this pilot as a test that could be expanded depending on performance and feedback. The carrier confirmed that it's considering rolling this out more broadly, but that'll be based, in part, on the six-day trial.

Related: Which airlines offer free inflight messaging

Hopefully, United sees the value in expanding this service. After all, messaging uses limited bandwidth, so it shouldn't degrade the network performance for flyers who purchase an internet package. If you're on an eligible flight, be sure to fill out the post-flight survey with your experience.

A handful of major U.S. airlines, including Alaska, Delta and Southwest, already offer free messaging. JetBlue takes it up a notch with free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi, which, of course, supports messaging as well.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023