United Airways’ reworked cabins are dealing with provide chain delays

United Airlines seat backs

Courtesy United Airlines

United AirlinesThe plan to refresh the cabins of its older narrow-body aircraft is behind schedule due to supply chain strains, the airline told CNBC this week. Upgrades include larger premium cabins, seatback entertainment screens on all aircraft, Bluetooth capabilities, and other amenities.

The Chicago-based airline previously expected to have 100 of its narrow-body aircraft retrofitted with the new interior by the end of the year, but now expects 60 to be ready by then, a spokeswoman said.

“The reality is the supply problems across the board [inflight entertainment] Systems, chips, seats and many other things are just more challenging than ever in our business,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, on a conference call last week.

United introduced the refurbished cabins in June 2021 after ordering 270 new ones Boeing and Airbus narrow-body jets, an attempt to refresh its brand as airlines compete for passengers amid travel declines, particularly high-spending passengers.

United has also said it expects to sell more premium seats on every departure than any other airline in North America by 2026, as travelers compete for elusive upgrades and the ranks of elite travelers swell with heaps of frequent flyer points.

United’s Nocella said last week that the airline will have several production lines this summer to redesign the interiors of the narrow-body aircraft to pick up the pace.

The airline expects about one in three aircraft in its narrow-body fleet, including new aircraft, to have the upgraded interior by the end of the year.

“It’s just going to take a little bit longer than we originally planned,” he said. A United Airbus A319 was recently modified and should be flying soon, he added.

The airline had set a target of 2025 to complete the narrow-body upgrades, but it’s unclear if United will meet that goal.

Separately, United said that by August all of its widebody aircraft will be equipped with Premium Economy seats and Polaris seats, the airline’s top-tier class on international and other long-haul routes.

Other airlines like JetBlue And Delta Airlines have also added amenities to their aircraft in recent years, upgrading their first-class classes, installing new seats and adding some services including free WiFi.

Delta executives have said that sales growth for premium seats like business class or premium economy has outpaced sales of standard coaches.

“We’re seeing a lot of stickiness on these products,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president, said earlier this month on the company’s quarterly conference call. “Once you start flying in those cabins, you tend not to come back.”

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