United Airlines Chief Digital Officer Linda Jojo emphasizes the 360 interior images are intended to help avoid confusion about seating choices and offering info on cabin features.

As United Airlines begins service on its Bombardier CRJ-550s, the carrier’s website is offering prospective fliers a 3D virtual tour designed to prove promises of the 50-seat regional jet’s greater legroom and other amenities.

The 3D seatmap on United.com will eventually be available for all flights, said United Chief Digital Officer Linda Jojo during the airline’s Media Day presentations in Chicago on Friday.

United boasts that the CRJ-550 is the “world's only 50-seat regional aircraft to offer true first-class seating.”

United also notes that the aircraft, which is divided into three sections (United First, United Economy Plus, and United Economy) includes:

  • Space for “every customer to bring a roller bag on board” as well as:
  • Self-serve refreshment center for United First customers featuring a wide assortment of snacks and beverages.
  • More overall legroom per seat than any other 50-seat aircraft flown by a U.S. airline.
United Airlines Chief Digital Officer Linda Jojo

But bullet points can only convey so much about a first-class experience.

“A picture's worth a thousand words, right?” Jojo told Kambr Media following her presentation. “So we decided to add pictures so customers could get a better sense of what we’re offering. Secondly, we're all getting into more and more of a video world. Being able to present the seating choices and cabin features helps us satisfy consumers’ expectations and interests as clearly as possible.”

Airline Retailing Advances

While airlines and travelers have generally based seating selection on price, as airlines seek to compete on “experience,” there is a realization of the need for better retailing strategies taking hold.

United's 3D View of the Bombardier CRJ-550 regional jet will be rolled out to the rest of the carrier's fleet.

The adoption of IATA’s New Distribution Capabilities and the recent deals between airline pricing data and retailing content provider ATPCO and distribution systems Amadeus and Sabre provide recent examples of the changing nature of the way carriers are approaching the selling of seats and ancillaries.

One of the chief features of the ATPCO deals is its use of its Routehappy rich media – i.e., interactive imagery that can be updated in real-time – to allow airlines to best showcase its seating’s legroom, food, entertainment, and cabins’ stylistic touches.  

In a brief conversation with Jojo, she noted that the goal associated with offering online 3D views isn’t about upselling a prospective Economy traveler to an Economy Plus seat.

“It's about customer service first,” Jojo said. “It's really about helping customers find out what the different attributes of the various seating products we have. Especially if someone hasn't flown us a lot, seating classes can be confusing. Addressing that is first and foremost. If that causes people to say, ‘I'd rather have a seat that has a higher price point,’ then that's a good thing. But that’s not the primary idea behind this.”