Is This Ad For A US Airline?!

In June United unveiled the details of Polaris, which is their new longhaul business class product. Not only is United introducing a new hard product (which is long overdue, given that none of their longhaul planes feature direct aisle access from every seat), but they’re also introducing a new service concept to go along with it.

While the service concept will be rolled out later this year, the problem is that the new hard product will be rolled out throughout the fleet at a snail’s pace, so it will likely be at least five years until a vast majority of United’s longhaul fleet has the new product (and in the process they’re phasing out international first class).

I’m curious to try Polaris, and I have to say that the marketing is excellent. In reality most of the things they’re marketing are very minor and aren’t really innovative (oh, free bottled water!), though they’re able to package the whole thing in a way that sounds appealing. Ultimately it will come down to the flight attendants to execute the service, because without motivated flight attendants who put in the effort, the soft product will fall flat.

Anyway, when Polaris was introduced United released a roughly three minute informational video about the product:

However, yesterday United released their first 30 second ad about Polaris:

Boy is it… aspirational!

What do you make of United’s first Polaris ad?

Comments

  1. Ben, This blog went from almost never mentioning United, to several recent posts and even a review! Any of the personal past issues with United aside, I am glad to see some more info on these products as they are the Chase partner I will likely use more often than the others.

  2. Thanks for including some United coverage, Ben! I feel like that’s the one area on the blog that doesn’t have a wealth of info 🙂

  3. Yeah no thanks. And I love the line at the end about no more jet lag. As if their late to the game, truly unremarkable hard product is any different from what dependable airlines are already offering.

    Then again, an English accent! It must be quality, right?

  4. “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, an innovative “New World” classical music composer, is fitting as theme tune in this case because, the naysayers notwithstanding, Polaris is the first attempt by “new world” airline to achieve “old world-like” luxury in the air.

    For a change, UA has a visionary leader, not like the imitator that got canned.

  5. United Polaris is last to the race, and is still the inferior contender in it. US Air’s Envoy class from 2009 had a better seat. Sure, they’re marketing the hell out of it, but what actually sets it apart from the competition?

  6. How come I never get that pretty blonde stew on my flights? Cool ad and I want to guzzle that mediocre champagne.

  7. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the female voice talent makes the spot sound like a Viagra commercial…

  8. Polaris is a welcome change, maybe they are going to do what AA has done, only put the new J in the 77W.

  9. Danger in setting expectations too early. People will be very disappointed to get on a plane now expecting this.

  10. A question for Lucky or anyone else:
    I don’t recognize the seat configuration — it’s not angled as in the herringbone configs, and it’s not the typical staggered. Is this configuration a new one or is it used by other airlines?

  11. Looking forward to flying on it between ORD – DEL early next year. I was one of the many frequent UA flyers recruited for the development stages of the Polaris product, which involved flights between the two coasts, and must say that I found the concept focused and well-executed. However, let’s see how it is executed on a commercial flight.

  12. As other carriers are moving further ahead …. and even improving an already-great FC …. United is catching up in C and dropping F.

  13. Considering that my experiences lead me to the opinion that the premium international products of AA, UA and DL (including First on AA and UA) are equally terrible, I am looking forward to this refreshing product.

  14. This is higher density than the AA Cirrus seat (77W) and Super Diamond (newer refurb 772s)…it will merely be average when it comes out, let’s not pretend it’s some new best-in-class offering.

    Plus, per FT there won’t even be enough mattress pads for every biz passenger…UA keeping it classy!

  15. @Lucky
    UA currently has direct aisle access from all Business Class seats on the Dreamliner 787 used on numerous long reach routes (I.E UA 1SFO-SIN and SFO/LAX Australia Service).

  16. @Lucky’s reaction to the slick ad for Polaris says it all:

    “Is This Ad For A US Airline?!”

    Precisely. The whole concept, from the lounge to Polaris could be something that SQ, e.g., would be expected to roll out. Contrary to claims that some are making, UA is not playing catch up here. They intend to leapfrog over their domestic competition.

    Admittedly, between concept and execution things could falter. However, I do believe that leadership is very important for success, and UA, at long last, seems to have a visionary leader in Oscar Munoz. The naysayers and the usual suspects at FT or elsewhere will proven wrong because I believe that Munoz and company will succeed in this endeavor. Munoz has something to prove so this is personal for him…and his just having reached labor contract agreement with the UA FA group is a great start!

  17. I’m not sure is DCS is a spokesman for UA or just an apologist …. but claiming they are leapfrogging over the domestic carriers doesn’t say much. (Roll eyes) While I’m hoping to see great things from Muñoz and team, simply wanting to be better than DL and the C service on AA is mediocre at best, considering they view themselves as a world-class international carrier. When they strive to compete with LH or SQ, including the FA’s attitude, then it will catch our attention. Until then, it’s UA with window dressing.

  18. @Kevin- so true…when one only flies UA, and is mainly a leisure traveler, it’s easy to think this is the best thing ever 😉 when in reality it’s just playing catch-up.

    I’ll believe it when I see it…the mattress pad “shortage” is already quite telling to me.

  19. @Endre and @DCS re Gershwin. Yes, the music is Rhapsody in Blue. It’s a shame they didn’t use the opening strains with a background of a sunrise over a plane. But, George & Ira Gershwin were not New World composers. That title belongs to Anton Dvorak, whose symphony #9, written in the US, has been titled the New World. What the Gershwin’s actually did was take the “classical” format of the orchestra and create jazz rhythms, melodies, harmonies and nuances for it. They also reformatted opera with “Porgy & Bess”. In essence, they may have been the first to create a “fusion”, a term usually referred to for jazz/rock combinations (ie., the Mahavishnu Orchestra for one). Other well known compositions of this genre are the piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris. PS – Ira Gershwin did collaborate on a song called It’s a New World.

  20. So I would guess that during the Polaris five year roll out it would be impossible to score an award flight on it, given how difficult it is to get premium award travel from UA presently. (I might have to qualify that with direct award travel).

  21. @Kevin, UA-NYC: UA’s main competitors are DL and AA. A significant portion of the travelers flying within the US and overseas on the big US3 are business travelers so why should UA bother to compete with the foreign airlines?? All UA needs to do is raise its reputation above the other two, which this product may do, from it’s ground-to-gate and in-flight amenities. It certainly appears attractive over what DL and AA offer…

  22. Idiots who are instantly negative crack me up. No matter what it’s a huge and positive step in the right direction for UA. With the new CEO and now contract things are falling in place (finally) for United. Polaris as a package actually looks great. The marketing is great. All around it’s a really good direction for UA.

  23. Ben:

    I’m not trying to be too critical but I think, as a blog writer, some of your grammar needs to improve.

    There have been numerous examples in previous posts of incorrect grammar and it is even more evident in this post. I’m not trying to be too pernickety; however, since you write blog posts every day, correct grammar is essential.

    Using a comma and a conjunction to connect two main clauses is an example of bad grammar, which I consistently see in many of your posts.

    Let me give you an example of what I mean:

    A main clause consists of a subject and a verb.

    “He ate the sandwich,” is an example of this.

    However, when I connect a main clause and another main clause you NEVER use a comma.

    So it would be – “He ate the sandwich and drank the juice.” That is a grammatically correct sentence. What you sometimes write is – “He ate the sandwich, and drank the juice.” That is an incorrect sentence.

    ” longhaul planes feature direct aisle access from every seat), but they’re also introducing” – is an example of an incorrect use of a comma in your post.

    Other examples of incorrect grammar include:

    “Ultimately it will come down to the flight attendants” – there should be a comma after “ultimately,” because you are starting a sentence with an adverb.

    “Ultimately, it will come down…” – would be the correct way of writing it.

    While I could name numerous other example, the stand-out example is the title.

    It should be “Is this an ad for AN US airline?” In this example you have incorrectly used the indefinite article.

    I am, genuinely, not trying to troll you or be in at all mean but I am trying to offer some constructive criticism, which could potentially allow you to improve your blog. OMAAT has taught me so much about the aviation industry and it is my favourite blog! I would be happy to e-mail/speak/message you about further ways I believe you could improve your grammatical accuracy, if you so wish.

    Thank you,

    SheldonJD

  24. Glad to see that UA is picking up where PanAm left off when they discontinued the Aries-1B shuttle in late 2001 after that mysterious occurrence on the moon. Something about uncovering a strange black monolith buried in a crater I believe.
    Hold on…this was an ad for terrestrial airline travel here on Earth, not a luxury excursion to the moon. Maybe in 20 years?

  25. That ad has more fluff than a Build-A-Bear store.

    Still, hope UA has a great product once it’s rolled out.

  26. @Emily – if you think parity plus a small notch better vs. AA/DL is sufficient, I’m guessing you aren’t paying for int’l J fares.

    UA said that sleep was the most important aspect of the Polaris program yet they already are saying “first come first serve” for mattress pads.

  27. @Jared:
    Thanks for the link and details about the seat. It’s striking to think that someone came up a “workable” design that still is effectively 8 across. We’ll see how well it really works.

    @Russ:
    Love your comment about PanAm — Kubrik works so hard to incorporate iconic images of the 60s in the movie (remember the Bell system tv phone) but these titans of mid-century industry never made it to 90s let alone to 2001.

  28. @UA-NYC

    You’re absolutely right. My firm purchases my tickets and given my position it’s in F or J. When I travel for leisure, I never pay, but use miles for redemption in first or biz. All the more relevant since significant number of US corporations prefer sending their employees on US airlines. Therefore UA is aware of its competition and strategy.

  29. @Chris Jensen — You are confused. No one claimed that Gershwin wrote the “New World Symphony” [‘From the New World’], which was, yes, composed by Antonín Dvořák.

    Look at the context in which I used “New World” and you’ll see that it is in its usual meaning of “America”. “Old World” luxury carriers referred to everyone else, whereas “New World” airlines referred to US carriers.

    And, Gershwin is considered a “classical” music composer, despite his distinctly “new world” flavor. He was influenced by Maurice Ravel (“Bolero”), and produced wonderful orchestral pieces like his symphonic poem “An American in Paris.” “Rhapsody” has been played by virtually every “serious” symphonic orchestra… Hope we’re now on the same page 🙂

  30. The winning comment for this thread is @Tim’s August 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm, which is worth re-posting:

    “Idiots who are instantly negative crack me up. No matter what it’s a huge and positive step in the right direction for UA. With the new CEO and now contract things are falling in place (finally) for United. Polaris as a package actually looks great. The marketing is great. All around it’s a really good direction for UA.”

    Amen! No one can argue with the concept. It’s slick any way you look at it. What the naysayers are really saying (perhaps stupidly because of puerile animosity toward UA) is that they hope it would fail. If it succeeds — which I am sure it will unless, God forbid, Munoz has another coronary — it will be better than anything that AA or DL has ever had to offer, and it is they who would be playing catch up.

    G’day!

  31. I have nothing against United but do prefer American . Now we’ll have to wait and see what American has in store for 2025 . By then 777X’s will be king .

  32. it does come down to the attendants,bad attitude== bad flight no matter where your seat is. i fly frequently to SE Asia and i know what airline ill be using and it wont be United

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