United Drops Fee for In-Flight Satellite Television, Movies

(Bloomberg) -- United Continental Holdings Inc. is dropping the fee to watch DirecTV live television and films on jets equipped with the service.

Free television will now be available on 211 of United’s Boeing Co. single-aisle 737s, United said in a statement Wednesday. Like most of its rivals, the airline also offers free streamed content across its fleet even as many carriers continue to provide seat-back video screens.

United’s decision is part of a push to improve its cabin offerings at a time when U.S. travelers have grown increasingly accustomed to free in-flight entertainment. United previously charged $5.99 for flights of less than two hours and $7.99 for longer. The TV service was free in first class.

“This multimillion dollar investment will benefit the 29 million people expected to fly United’s DirecTV-enabled planes this year,” United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz wrote in a letter to customers Wednesday that was signed by eight other executives.

United’s satellite television dates to 2009 before the merger of United and Continental. At the time, Continental partnered with LiveTV, then a unit of JetBlue Airways Corp., to install the service on its Boeing 737 and 757 fleets. JetBlue, which still has free live television across its fleet, sold the unit to Thales SA in 2014.

Southwest Airlines Co. stopped charging for in-flight movies in November, bowing to feedback from passengers accustomed to not paying on rival carriers.

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