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updated: 5/9/2013 12:48 PM

United Continental ramps up its live TV, Wi-Fi

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  • About 200 United Continental airplanes feature live TV for passengers, along with improved Wi-Fi services, with more expected later this year.

    About 200 United Continental airplanes feature live TV for passengers, along with improved Wi-Fi services, with more expected later this year.

  • Video: United's live TV


Chicago-based United Continental Holdings, which still has some operations in Elk Grove Township, aims to attract more travelers with live TV provided by Direct TV in 200 planes, possibly more than other airlines. And more planes are expected to offer the in-flight feature later this year, said United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.

Passengers can choose among 100 channels during their flight. It costs $5.99 for flights of two hours or less, and $7.99 for flights more than two hours. The seven-inch screens are in the back of each seat and passengers can swipe a credit card to start the programming, Johnson said.

In addition to live news, sports and family entertainment, passengers can get up to eight newly released movies a month. The service is complimentary for customers in United First.

"Travelers want convenience and they want the experience to be what they're accustomed to," Johnson said. "They want connectivity."

Continental Airlines started to install the equipment for live TV programming around 2007 and other carriers also offer similar services. Continental then merged with United Airlines.

The live TV was inherited from the former Continental aircraft that make up the lion's share of the fleet. The Boeing 737 fleet and the 757-300s were all from Continental or from Continental orders before the merger.

Before the merger, United had no 737s or 757-300s in its fleet, said Mike Boyd, principal and an airline analyst with Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo.

"It's a nice perk," Boyd said. "With the switch eventually to the live TV, that means no more free viewing in economy, although the live TV is a whole lot more than a fuzzy drop-down screen with reruns of 'The Big Bang Theory.'"

These planes also offer power outlets in United First and United Economy Plus, which allow passengers to power up their cellphones, laptops, e-readers and other mobile devices, United said.

In addition, United said it offers personal on-demand entertainment for premium-cabin and economy-cabin customers on the majority of its long-haul international aircraft, providing hundreds of hours of movies, television programs, music and games.

United is also working to install satellite Wi-Fi, which is expected to be in about 200 planes later this year.

New Daily Herald apps: Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald has launched its newly redesigned iPad and iPhone apps, which are available in the Apple Store. New features include a more user-friendly interface and architecture, along with added sections for obituaries, events calendar, traffic and enhanced weather information.

The apps also allow users to share articles via email, Facebook and Twitter, receive iPhone and iPod Touch support, and share and upload photos and stories to the Daily Herald, the company said.

"We are excited about these mobile platform enhancements. It's just one more way for our readers to enjoy all the benefits of Daily Herald local content anywhere they are and on platforms they desire," said Colin O'Donnell, senior vice president/director of content and strategy.

The previous iPhone app has been updated and relaunched as Daily Herald Lite and is available on iPad, too. Lite provides all the articles available for each section. After the first five articles, readers will see one to two paragraphs and an invitation to download the premium app for the full article, the company said.

The premium Daily Herald app, which replaces the Daily Herald's previously available iPad app, is now available on iPhone as well. It's free to download, but only 7-day print and digital subscribers will have unlimited access. Users are encouraged to activate or set up an account through Press Plus. The Daily Herald soon will launch the Android version of its apps through Google Play and Amazon app stores, the company said.

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