How To Know If Your Flight Features United Polaris?

In June United announced that they’d be eliminating their “BusinessFirst” in favor of “Polaris,” the name for their new business class product.

United-New-Business-Class-3

I’ve had rather mixed feelings about the marketing of the product. On one hand, they’re trying to market “Polaris” as a household name and trying to make people refer to the product as “Polaris” rather than “business class,” which is risky.

At the same time I’ve been surprised by how many non-avgeek friends have mentioned Polaris to me in amazement, as if United is somehow introducing service to the moon. An acquaintance who works at another US airline recently mentioned Polaris to me, and about how he viewed it as the biggest threat to “his” airlines’ premium cabin product. So I guess it’s working.

United’s Polaris advertising sure is whimsical:

The other problem is that the rollout of Polaris will be really slow and fragmented. That’s to say it’s going to be at least five years (or so) before the entire fleet features the Polaris product.

With that in mind, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the rollout of United Polaris, so figured I’d provide as simple of an explanation as possible in this post.

When is United Polaris being introduced?

If you’re flying what’s formerly known as BusinessFirst on December 1, 2016, or later, your flight will now feature United Polaris. United recently had a schedule change that made this update, so you’ll see that your class of service shows as “United Polaris business.”

united-polaris

However, this doesn’t mean that your flight will feature United’s new Polaris seat, or even the new Polaris lounge.

Instead, flights starting December 1, 2016, will feature the United Polaris onboard soft product. That means you can expect improved food, drinks, Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, pajamas on flights over 12 hours, etc., as of that date, even if the type of plane you’re flying on isn’t changing.

When can you expect United Polar seats & lounges?

This is going to be a very drawn out process:

Timing of United Polaris Lounges

The first United Polaris Lounge will open in December 2016 at Chicago O’Hare, near gate C16 (the exact date hasn’t yet been announced). In the next few years we’ll see an additional eight Polaris Lounges open at Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles International, Newark, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita.

Opening dates for those lounges haven’t yet been announced, and in most cases they’ll simply be reallocating space from existing lounges.

United-New-Business-Class-1

Timing of United Polaris Seats

The new United Polaris seats will debut on United’s first 777-300ER, which they’re taking delivery of in December 2016. The plane will be based out of Newark, and will initially operate domestic routes, and then sometime in the second quarter of 2017 will begin flying internationally.

United will also install the Polaris seats on their new 787-10s and A350-1000s, as well as retrofit them on their existing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft. The problem is, it’ll likely be several years before the new seats are available consistently on any existing planes.

United-Polaris

Bottom line

While United is doing a great job marketing this, I think a lot of customers are going to be disappointed when they realize how long it will take to roll out the Polaris experience:

  • As of December, you can expect the Polaris onboard experience to be available on all longhaul flights
  • You can expect the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago to open before the end of the year, while the other lounges will be introduced in the coming years
  • United’s 777-300ER will be the first plane to feature the new seat, though we don’t yet know on what route the plane will operate; other than that, it’s anyone’s guess how soon we’ll see Polaris on the next plane, and what route it will operate

So there’s a lot still up in the air, though hopefully this at least clarifies what you should (and shouldn’t) expect. In other words, expect the onboard soft product starting next week, but don’t expect anything else just yet.

Comments

  1. Yeah the biggest problem is the extremely slow pace of the retrofit.
    By the time UA is done with retrofitting the whole fleet, other airlines are going to have next-gen business class seats, so UA will be always behind the competition.

  2. I’m confused! I am booked on United on a 777 from ZRH to IAD in June next year and the flight is now showing the Polaris BC wording next to it as mentioned above BUT the seat map still shows a 2-4-2 seating arrangement. How can that be?

  3. They should have just called the seat Polaris and keep the soft product update separate. Would mean a lot less unhappy customers until they get the rollout done

  4. @Christian: Re-read the article. It specifically points out that starting 1 December United will roll out the Polaris *SOFT* product. So food, bedding, alcohols, etc…basically everything BUT the seat. The seats will be installed very, very slowly over the next 5 years or so.

  5. @Christian
    Polaris never referred to the actual seat, but to the experience as a whole. In the meantime, flying ANY UA business class seat will get you an old seat with the Polaris soft product, which means you should expect better food and service, but not the new seats.

  6. I don’t understand why some are so pessimistic about this. ANY major J set refurb project takes years on any airline the size of UA. It’s also worth pointing out that when the Polaris project is complete, UA will have a consistent seat across its fleet — something DL, AA, and UA currently can’t claim. So why is it wrong of UA to market a significant improvement in its premium products now? There’s no other way to expedite airplane refurbs. This marks a massive (and in my opinion, sincere) promise to improve UA’s onboard product after years of post-merger mediocrity.

  7. United’s new Polaris business-class has tempted me for months. As someone else said, perception is reality. Ask Emirates. The problem is by United’s own admission it will be 2021 before the “new” (it won’t be new then!) business-class is fleet-wide. By that point, the seats installed in 2016 and 2017 will be in rough shape, I imagine. To say nothing of the technology.

    I get it takes time and money to do something fleet-wide, but damn. United should have done this within three years and made it absolutely crystal clear what routes it would be on.

    How many people are going to be showing up for “first-class” (in their mind) — whether it’s EWR-NRT, HNL-GUM, ORD-LHR — and expecting Polaris only to be disappointed.

    And that’s why I’m not switching from Delta. I want consistency. I won’t, for sure, know until 2021 what I’ll 100% get on United.

  8. All aisle access business class seats have been the norm for years. United is late to the game but for their loyalists this will be a nice and much-needed refresh.

  9. United trying to seduce customers back with all this hype. Book business and when you walk on a plane and see eight across with your (pretty much economy) seat facing backwards, looking face to face at people across the aisle you’ll see and go back to airlines like Singapore Air that have had 4 across in business for years. And you won’t need to deal with rude, ignorant tenured flight staff.

  10. This is akin to Comcast renaming their service Xfinity. The Comcast name had become so tarnished that no amount of Shinola was enough to polish that turd, so they gave it a new name. Same crappy product, with promises of future greatness.

  11. Has anyone noticed that flights in GLOBAL FIRST class are being listed as POLARIS FIRST as of the new year? At least several flights on which I am booked, including 747 service SFO-FRA.

    So, I sent a message asking what that means. The first reply was all about Polaris Business Class.

    I responded back and asked about Polaris First. I received another reply with a discombobulated message. But the person told me that if I was used to GF in the past, I would appreciate direct aisle access in the new Polaris First!

    Do these people know what they do? Have any of the people ever been on a UA airplane?

  12. Ditto on Kevin’s questions about the people at United.

    I’m a United Global Services / Million Miler and have been questioning United via their GS dedicated email for the past year about multiple issues, but there’s one issue that no one at United seems to be able to answer: I purchase business class seats, so what good are all the Global Premier Upgrades (GPU’s), when all your new/current configurations are switching to Business First/EconPlus/Econ??? Are you encouraging me to buy Economy Plus (a lower fare) and then use my GPU’s to upgrade to business? That would mean LESS revenue for United!! Like others here, United replies with “Did you hear about our new Polaris Business Class?”.

    United’s Business and First products are already years behind the competition, and as noted above, it’s going to be 2021 by the time UA has a consistent product across their fleet. In the meantime, other US based carriers who have already been upgrading their product will have completed the transition, while those who need to upgrade will proceed with the next-gen business class product, once again leaving United in the dust. EVA, Cathay, and Singapore have had the 1-2-1 configurations in Business for 2-3 years and their flight attendants actually treat their jobs as a career, where UA’s attendants consider it a job where passengers have to be tolerated.

    As I look at my travel needs for 2017, I’m strongly considering other carriers, as I’m finding that flying business class with no status on another carrier offers me 90% or more of the “benefits” I get as a GS level flyer on United.

  13. Flying UA EWR-DEL then BOM-EWR in December and couldn’t care less on current or future BC marketing as long a it’s a direct flight that gets me there Relaxed and in shortest time as that’s the ultimate reward at the end of my trip, but for the record they can update wtvr they want but as long as their crews get to choose their routes on seniority u can forget about service as let’s be honest which 50+ year old will actually work to appease their passengers for 12+ hours come hell or high water, U want service try almost any Asian carrier and the’ll treat u like royalty every time regardless of class u pay for

  14. Looks like I’ve been dooped!
    I was fooled by all the hype. I purchase two Polaris seats on May 20th from Chicago flight 987 to Paris and was told that I would have the opertumity to pic my Polaris seats after Dec.
    now it look like that is false infoation.
    We just started to fly United again after a bad experience but we thought we would try United again based on Polaris hype. REALY!!
    Not to happy right now. This could be the end of us flying United again!!
    No one likes to be lied to. And we were!!

  15. Just flew ‘Polaris” from Frankfurt to Houston. What was different…not much.

    Added overlooked duck to menu. Had two pillows and a everything labeled ‘Saks Fifth Avenue’ and ‘Polaris’. What a joke.

    United will take five years to reach a seating arrangement already in place with ANA and other Asian carriers.

    Flew Turkish, Emirates, Lufthansa and Ethiopian airways business class on this trip. United Was tied with Ethiopian for last (but Ethiopian service better).

    Marketing BS.

  16. Booked to fly flight 935 LHR to LAX in Global First on 777-200 in June 2017. Was just notified by United that there was plane change to 787-9 Dreamliner, two cabins and we where moved from first to business. I called United about the change and was told that the plane consisted of the new Polaris Business with excess to the aisle. She read the description to me and it sounds like the new Polaris. I questioned her about the 787-9 map showing side by side seats in business and she said no her information is that the seats are staggered. I just checked my trip information on United site and it showed a photo of the new Polaris seat. I’m confused now, because information I have found online doesn’t even mention that the 787-9 was going to be retro-fitted with the new Polaris seats for years. Is United giving me bum information or did they decide to retro-fit is plane. This plane doesn’t start flying this route until sometime in the spring 2017 so I can’t research reviews yet.

  17. Showing pictures of the “future” Polaris seat on a current Business First seats flight just is a lie. Let take companies which really show you the real stuff.

  18. Save the anguish. Fly Virgin Atlantic that has had a superior upper (business) class service, with chauffeur door to door pick up and delivery, excellent lounge and food, and flat beds for at least ten years. The best advertisement for this airline is that Richard Branson flies on his own airline exclusively. Compare this to any and all US Airline execs Who fly exclusively on private company Lear jets.

  19. Fwiw, SFo-Hkg seat map shows new seats!!! Id so love to fly it. Too bad im short on UA miles. Anyways I’d love the hat tip!

  20. It’s funny how much media hype United can create for a seat that is basically the same one that Emirates has been installing on their A380 for the last 10 years…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *