United Flight 936: iPodding at 35,000 Feet

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet, and the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. You are free to use personal electronic devices at this time, and feel free to plug in your iPod or iPhone into our new docking and charging systems."

That was probably the inflight announcement on United's flight 936 that departed from Washington, D.C. in route to Zurich on Monday afternoon. What's so special about this flight?

As other airlines are cutting back on services, and you have to pay for everything from an ounce of peanuts to a single checked bag, United Airlines is putting in some major perks on its international first and business class seats.

Overview_hero20080318 In addition to lie-flat seating and on-seat entertainment options, add iPod and iPhone connectivity. Each seat will have the 30-pin connectors that will connect a passenger's iPod or iPhone to a charging system and the 15.4-inch personal TV. That means you can watch the movie and video content you've been downloading on the large screen at your seat, and not worry about running out of juice someplace over the Arctic.

The iPod system is in addition to games and XM Radio options that are available, with more than 150 hours of inflight options. The system was designed by Panasonic Avionics Corporation, the same company that designed a similar system for Singapore Airlines.

So, while those of us stuck in the middle seat in coach, waiting for the guy in the aisle seat to stop snoring, those special folks in first class are watching downloaded episodes of Lost from their iPods. At least we're on United, and not Oceanic. -Leslie Shapiro

Via United