Those traveling in first class with United Airlines this summer may be able to use a wireless charging station. A new domestic first-class seat was introduced by United last week. It will be installed on more than 200 planes by the end of 2026, according to the airline. The seats offer three kinds of charging docks—a wireless charging station in every armrest, an AC household-style outlet, and USB-C. In addition, United First passengers will have larger 13-inch seatback screens and Bluetooth connectivity.
Customer feedback and extensive market research influenced the design choices for the new United First seat. “In any product innovation like a new seat, significant amounts of customer and market research is leveraged,” a United spokesperson told Avionics in a written statement. “In addition to comfort, we also considered what the modern traveler is looking for, like more charging options, privacy, and better seatback entertainment.”
In response to a question about the wireless charging technology, the representative from United commented, “The wireless charger can accommodate any device that has the ability to charge wirelessly (within the confines of the unit size).”
United partnered with various experts and design firms to develop the new seat, including the University of Michigan biomechanics researcher Dr. Matthew Reed and design firm Priestman Goode. “We leveraged a variety of experts both internally and externally,” shared United’s spokesperson. “Working with a variety of expertise ensures we’re approaching development with a critical and innovative eye, versus a place of homogenous thinking.”
Astronics is one of the companies that has developed wireless charging modules, or WCMs. Eventually, passengers will expect wireless charging on every flight, believes Mike Hettich, Vice President of Cabin Electronics at Astronics AES. “Astronics envisions the WCM as an additional method of charging PEDs [portable electronic devices] along with the existing EmPower products,” he remarked. “It’s one more convenient option for airlines to consider when making decisions to support their passengers’ power requests.”