Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


IDEAS: United’s New Domestic First-Class Seat Designs

8 months ago

United has revealed its United First seat, marking the first update to a domestic first class seat design from the airline since 2015.

The seat, which features a wireless charging station in every arm rest, vegan leather upholstery, 13-inch seatback screens and 18-inch tray tables, is set to make its debut on the airline’s Boeing 737 this month, with the seat expected to be introduced on 200 planes across the fleet by 2026. 

Credit: United Airlines

The new seat joins a line of recently announced seat upgrades as airlines vie for the attention of travelers.

“This new United First seat is designed around the modern traveler – more charging options, bigger spaces for devices, food, drinks and personal items and extra privacy,” said Mark Muren, managing director of identity, product and loyalty at United.

 “As we evolve the onboard experience, we’re upending old industry norms and anticipating future needs to accommodate the new ways people live and travel.”

The airline is also planning on updating its existing offering on planes that will not get the new seat with new seat cushions, vegan leather upholstery and winged headrests.

At Skift, we are looking to unearth the most creative and forward-thinking innovations in travel through our Skift Ideas Franchise, which includes the Skift IDEA Awards, Skift Editorial Hub and the Skift Ideas Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


Air France’s New Business Class Product

11 months ago

Air France is upgrading its 12 Boeing 777-300ERs with the airline’s new long-haul business class product, a process that is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The aircraft will also get the same economy and premium economy seats as those found on its cutting-edge A350s. 

The first refurbished B777 (named “Fontainebleau”) took off from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to New York-JFK in January. It has also been serving Rio de Janeiro and Dakar in Senegal. 

At the moment about 90 per cent of Air France’s business class cabins have the latest fully flat business class seats but the remainder will be replaced over the coming eight months. 

New business class on Air France
New business class on an Air France Boeing 777 plane.

So what’s interesting about Air France’s next generation of business class? Originally unveiled in spring 2022, there has been some delay to it entering the skies. In any case, flyers will now find smart navy blue and white seats arranged in a “reverse herringbone”1-2-1 formation and with added privacy thanks to sliding doors to create a fully enclosed suite.

Accommodating 48 passengers in total, each seat transforms into a proper bed that extends to almost two metres in length. High-grade materials that have been used include wool, brushed aluminium and full-grain French leather. 

Air France states on its website: “The seat itself has been reworked for optimal lumbar support. The foam has been ergonomically redesigned for maximum comfort throughout your journey, regardless of the seat position.”

When it comes to sleeping, passengers are given a soft microfiber pillow and blanket. Not only is the lighting intensity adjustable but there is also a “do not disturb” feature to let crew that flyers don’t want to be woken for meals. 

As is expected of business class these days, there is direct aisle access for everyone – and for those travelling together, middle seat pairs feature a central panel that can be lowered by pressing it down, to allow companions to talk or share a drink on a central cocktail table. 

Other improvements to the physical environment include 17.3-inch, 4K, high-definition,anti-glare screens. Also provided are noise-reducing headsets, a Bluetooth connection allowing passengers to use their own headphones and several electric sockets for charging personal devices. 

By the end of the year, the whole fleet will have wifi (up from 97 per cent now). The Air France Connect portal offers three passes, including a free pass for sending and receivingmessages. Surfing the internet for one hour costs €8, while the whole flight costs €18. For those who want to stream content, there is a €30 package for the entire journey.


Southwest to Start Testing Free Wifi on Flights

2 years ago

Free wifi on flights is a perennial issue that comes up in news every year or two. Delta has tested it on and off since 2019 and JetBlue has been providing free-if-slow wifi on its planes for a few years now. Now CNBC is reporting that Southwest will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on 40 of its Boeing 737s flights starting this week, as part of an upgrade to the hardware on these planes.

It will be available from May 4 through June 10 on certain flights in the western U.S, as part of its trial. It currently offers Wi-Fi for $8 per day and blocks access to video sites such as Netflix, HBO Max and Zoom.

This comes after Hawaiian Airlines said last month that it will start providing free wifi from early next year using SpaceX’s Starlink service.