With gas prices soaring, and ticket prices soaring with them, the days of the airlines’ price wars have likely ended. Now the onus is on each carrier to provide tangible perks that don’t require hiring more flight attendants or adding to the cost of everday operations, and United Airlines [NASDAQ: UAUA] may have hit upon one such idea. United plans to install iPod and iPhone connectivity in some of its in-flight entertainment systems very soon, with the first Apple-enabled [NASDAQ: AAPL] plane taking off from Washington DC today. Users will be able to plug in their device and watch or listen to all of its media on United’s built-in 15.4-inch seat-back screens, all while the iPod or iPhone charges. United plans to have Apple connectivity installed on all of its first-class and business-class international flights within the next two years, but no word if or when the feature will ever come to coach class.
At present, Virgin Airlines is commonly thought of as the standard-bearer for in-flight entertainment; Virgin allows all its passengers to choose from a wide selection of recent and classic feature films and television, as well as from a littany of other features like gaming and global mapping. Seeing as users who plug in their iPods and iPhones are still required to pay for the movies and shows they rent or buy via iTunes before boarding, providing them with a screen on which they’ve bought their media seems like a comparitively raw deal. Then again, there’s no telling if the iTunes store itself could make an appearance on United’s in-flight system, which might make up for the cost in added convenience.CD