United opts for Panasonic in-flight entertainment

  • June 12, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

United has become the first airline in the Americas to install Panasonic’s Astrova upgradeable in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

The airline plans to install Astrova on select new Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft from next year. This will give passengers features such as 4K OLED screens, high fidelity audio and programmable LED lighting.

This agreement builds on the airline’s previous commitment in 2021 to install Panasonic’s X series and Next IFE systems on widebody and narrowbody aircraft. With this latest agreement around Astrova, United’s programme represents the largest ever investment in Panasonic’s IFE by any airline.

Collectively, these agreements cover both line-fit and retrofit installations across United’s fleet and are part of United Next, which is enhancing the passenger experience on narrowbody aircraft flown in domestic and short-haul international markets.

The Next programme includes seatback entertainment screens at every seat – first class has 33cm monitors, while economy has 25.4cm monitors, larger overhead bins, high speed wifi, USB outlets at every seat, Bluetooth audio connections for in-flight entertainment, and LED lighting throughout the cabin.

“Our customers tell us that they want to be engaged, entertained and productive in the air,” said Mark Muren, managing director for identity, product and loyalty at United Airlines. “Our new partnership with Panasonic Avionics will make that possible and enable us to set a new standard of in-flight excellence as a key part of United Next. Together United and Panasonic will drive new standards of engagement when customers come onboard a United aircraft.”

Astrova is the first IFE to offer 4K OLED technology. The image quality is sharper, clearer, with an infinite contrast ratio, which delivers cinema-grade colours and the perfect black. It also creates a fully immersive experience for passengers with high fidelity 3D spatial audio delivered by Panasonic’s Bluetooth technology.

Passengers will have up to 100W of DC power via USB-C at their seat, providing the ability to fast charge phones, tablets and laptops through all phases of flight.

“Our partnership with United Airlines reflects our shared vision to take the passenger engagement to a whole new level,” said Ken Sain, CEO of Panasonic Avionics. “We are confident that Astrova will connect passengers to United more effectively than any other IFE, and we will continue to optimise passenger engagement with a cabin experience that keeps pace with innovation in the consumer technology space. Panasonic Avionics will perpetually update the passenger experience, introducing new products that bring enormous value and a major competitive advantage to United Airlines.”

Astrova’s modular architecture makes it upgradeable throughout its lifecycle, and with few re-certification efforts and costs. Key hardware and software components can be replaced over time to meet market requirements and satisfy increasing passenger expectations.

The business model of the agreement between the two companies ensures United will consistently offer its passengers the latest IFE innovations, and bring to life a new in-flight touchpoint that draws passengers into the airline’s brand experience at every seat.

An example of Panasonic’s ability to keep the technology of its Astrova seat end system in pace with consumer technologies is a removable peripheral bar. This proprietary and patented technology provides the ability to add and upgrade features such as Bluetooth and others. This unlocks the ability for United to adopt quickly the technology and capabilities passengers expect and use in their daily lives. Astrova is also lighter than other seat-end architectures, which will help United reduce fuel burn.

More than 200 airlines have installed Panasonic IFE, satellite wifi connectivity and digital services on their aircraft.