October 13 2023  |  Connectivity & Satellites

United Airlines shines spotlight on its Bluetooth-enabled aircraft

By Alex Preston

United passengers can now use Apple Airpods Pro to access IFE content

United Airlines is promoting the capabilities of its new Bluetooth-enabled planes, with an emphasis on new AirPods Pro features that make it easier for passengers and flight crews to connect and communicate.

The roll-out of Bluetooth connectivity is part of United Next, the carrier’s fleet modernization and growth program. Currently, Bluetooth is available on more than 100 planes, with plans to extend it to more than 800 aircraft by 2032.

Now available for all AirPods Pro (2nd generation), Conversation Awareness lowers volume when the user starts speaking, which can make it easier to communicate with a flight attendant when ordering food and beverages. Additionally, Adaptive Audio is a new listening mode that dynamically blends Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation, adjusting the noise control based on the sound in a user's environment – like the roar of plane engines.

"United was the first US airline to roll out Bluetooth, and when we saw Apple's new AirPods features, we knew it could be a game changer for our customers and our employees," said Jason Birnbaum, United's Chief Information Officer in yesterday’s announcement. "People want to stay connected while they're in the air, but there's also a lot of interactions between our crew and customers – the technological combination of wireless connectivity, Conversation Awareness and Adaptive Audio result in a great experience for everyone."

To use the Bluetooth facility, passengers need to select the Bluetooth icon from the toolbar near the bottom of the seatback screen monitor.They then have to toggle Bluetooth on and ensure the Bluetooth headphones are disconnected from other devices. After placing them in pairing mode, the device is selected from the passenger’s list of available device, after which time they can enjoy United’s library of entertainment.

United expects that 75 per cent of its fleet will be new generation by 2030.

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