United Airlines bolsters mobile strategy with smartphone entertainment, new app


United is ramping up mobile offerings

United Airlines is bumping up its mobile strategy with the introduction of a personal device entertainment service on planes via its updated mobile application and enabling in-store purchases with the new MileagePlus X loyalty app.

United consumers with Android devices can now access the airline’s complimentary entertainment service for personal devices by using the latest version of the United mobile app. The airline is also selecting a test group of Mileage Plus rewards members to get a sneak peek at the upcoming MileagePlus X app, which allow users to conveniently pay for in-store purchases and collect up to 24 miles per dollar spent.

“As users adapt to larger mobile screens, the updated app would likely be valuable to travelers and increase brand loyalty,” said Mark Ghermezian, co-founder and CEO of Appboy, New York. “However, unless United actively engages users through a multi-channel strategy that regularly reminds travelers of app features, they are less likely to organically open the app between travel dates.”

Mobile entertainment service

While United Airlines launched a beta test of the personal device entertainment service for laptops and Apple devices earlier this year, this marks the first time that Android users are receiving access to the system. Passengers with Android smartphones or tablets will now be able to use their devices to view hundreds of available movies and television shows in-flight using Wi-Fi.

The content is enabled for nearly 200 United aircrafts, including all Airbus A319, Airbus A320 and Boeing 747 fleets.

Travelers can now select which devices they would prefer to stream entertainment from

United has found that travelers increasingly prefer to watch entertainment on their own devices, and hopes that expanding their personal device entertainment service will give its customers even more ability to enjoy in-flight movies and shows.

Guests can check whether their flight has the service and Wi-Fi capability by checking Inflight Amenities on United.com, which can be located under Flight Status and Information. Users of the United app can find the information in the Amenities tab under Flight Status.

Enhanced rewards app

United is also aiming for members of its MileagePlus loyalty program to receive a treat with the MileagePlus X app, which allows consumers to use their mobile devices for in-store purchases at major retailers such as Lowe’s, Gap, Sears and AMC Theaters and get additional miles for each dollar spent.

A group of MileagePlus members using iOS and Android devices will be invited to test the new app this holiday season. United plans to roll out MileagePlus X to all members soon, and will be expanding retail options.

Users of the MileagePlus X app will have the ability to find participating stores and discover the amount of miles they can receive at more than 50,000 locations. Consumers can also browse merchants’ catalogs or search for specific retailers.

United's mobile apps are being revamped for increased convenience and rewards

To complete a transaction with MileagePlus X, guests will enter the total amount of their purchase into the app, which will create a digital merchant gift card. The store’s cashier will then scan the barcode to complete the purchase, and the guest will see award miles instantly show up in the member account.

They may also see any additional miles earned purchasing the gift card with a Chase MileagePlus Credit Card. MileagePlus X will offer more payment features in the feature, such as the ability to use miles for in-store purchases.

“Including entertainment content within an app is an ideal way to keep users engaged in-flight,” Mr. Ghermezian said. “With many airlines dramatically cutting down on complimentary services and increasing fares, the inclusion of entertainment content provides a significant amount of value to travelers without accruing additional travel costs.”