United A319 in-flight

Retrofitted A319 with new United Next interior ready for service


Nearly two years after United Airlines revealed an ambitious refurbishment program to install its new ‘United Next’ signature interior across its narrowbody fleet, the first refitted twinjet is finally ready to reenter service.

When the retrofit program was first announced in June 2021 at United’s Newark maintenance base — as the United Next interior with seatback IFE debuted on a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 — the US major said it planned to refit two thirds of its narrowbody fleet by 2023, with the balance completed by summer 2025.

After a three-month visit to Melbourne, Florida, the 25-year old Airbus A319 (N801UA) represents the official beginning of the refurbishment program.

United Airlines Airbus A319 at the gate as seen from the window of the airport.With just one aircraft done, United still has a long road ahead of it. Hundreds of narrowbodies still need to be retrofitted.

Passengers can expect a much more premium experience. United Next features updated LED lighting; nose-to-tail Panasonic in-seat entertainment screens that support Bluetooth audio; larger overhead bins; plus power outlets and USB ports at all seats.

Though photos are not yet available of the A319’s new interior, readers need only observe the beautiful iteration on board the MAX to get a sense of what to expect.

A rendering showing rows of seats with seatback IFE on board the 737 MAX 8

United’s decision to reverse course and offer seatback IFE on its narrowbody fleet bucks a major industry trend started, at least in part, by itself. Image: United Airlines

Like virtually every other sector and industry, United attributes the retrofit program delay to supply chain issues across a range of suppliers. “[T]he reality is the supply challenges across the board, whether it would be IFE systems, chips, seats and many other things are just more challenging than they have ever been in our business,” said United chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella during the airline’s first quarter 2023 earnings call.


While Nocella said United will open multiple retrofit lines this summer to rapidly increase the number of refurbished aircraft, program completion may now drag out up to two years longer than originally planned.

“The total time to convert all the aircraft is just going to be longer than we expected, unfortunately, probably by a year or two years, to be frank,” said Nocella. “So, we will get there. It will just take a little bit longer than we had originally intended. But you will see material progress.”

United continues to take deliveries of new Boeing 737-8 and 737-9 MAX aircraft that feature the United Next cabin directly from Boeing, with 72 deliveries having been made to date.

News of the first retrofit completion was first brought to light by @xJonNYC on Twitter. Curiously, the internal document he supplied did not list any improvements to the A319’s Wi-Fi system. United’s Airbus fleet features a Panasonic Ku-band powered connectivity system that, to date, has not supported a streaming class of service on board.

United has confirmed to RGN that the A319 still has Panasonic Wi-Fi.

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All images credited to the author, Jason Rabinowitz