United’s International Fleet Finally Has Wi-Fi That Actually Works

Jan 28, 2019

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From the narrow-body Airbus A319 to the flagship Boeing 777-300ER, United offers connectivity on nearly all of its domestic and international mainline flights. But simply having Wi-Fi onboard doesn’t do flyers much good if it’s painfully slow, or — in some cases — doesn’t work at all.

While Gogo and ViaSat-equipped planes do act up from time to time, almost all of United’s connectivity issues affect flights with Panasonic Wi-Fi — from my experience, at least. On United’s long-haul fleet, I got used to Wi-Fi that simply didn’t work at all on many of my flights.

Then, near the end of 2017, the airline committed to upgrading its Panasonic infrastructure throughout 2018. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, however, as of this month, it seems United’s actually managed to follow through on that promise.

So far, in 2019, I’ve had five flights on United’s Panasonic-equipped aircraft, including three on the airline’s first 787-10 (N14001) and two on one of its oldest 757-200s (N13113). On both planes, the Wi-Fi worked very well — not a surprise for a brand-new Dreamliner, perhaps, but I certainly noticed the upgrade on the 757. While there was some downtime here and there, I was able to get work done on all five flights.

While two aircraft is hardly a robust sample, a Panasonic representative I chatted with confirmed that United’s entire fleet has been upgraded, so you should expect similar performance when traveling on United’s Airbus A319s and A320s, along with international Boeing 757-200s, 767-300ERs, 767-400ERs, 777-200ERs, 777-300ERs and all three variants of the 787 Dreamliner.

Pricing remains unchanged — full-flight rates ranged from $10.99 for my three-hour hop to Miami to $24.99 for the cross-country leg from Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX). And, while streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are unfortunately blocked, all aircraft with the new Panasonic system should offer free movie and TV show streaming from an onboard server from gate to gate.

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