A Friend’s Experience In United Polaris Today

Update: My apologies for not fact checking this more carefully, as apparently United’s Premium Service transcon flights don’t qualify as Polaris. They just get the bedding, but the rest of the experience hasn’t been changed. Sorry!

As most of you probably know, United’s new Polaris product is debuting today, which is the name for their new premium cabin experience. While United is introducing a new seat to go along with Polaris, unfortunately it’ll be several more weeks before the first plane with the new seats is flying, and several more years until most of the longhaul fleet features the product.

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There’s no denying that United is doing a brilliant job marketing their new Polaris product, and really making it look like they’re reinventing business class.

I hope to have my own review of United Polaris soon, though in the meantime I figured I’d share what a friend just sent me, as he flew a premium transcontinental flight today, which also gets the new service (as I’ve updated above, unfortunately it seems these flights just get the new blankets and pillows, and don’t otherwise get new service).

He’s a very frequent flyer with United, though didn’t even realize today was the switchover day for Polaris. So he was kind enough to share some photos and thoughts on the experience.

Here’s what he told me:

  • Little has changed; the food has officially changed, but is really the same stuff
  • The salad is now kale instead of lettuce and has cauliflower in it (why?) and raisins, but no fruit
  • The appetizer is classic prosciutto melon plus a piece of mediocre cheese
  • The mains are the same pig, new lipstick
  • No changes have been made to sundaes and cookies
  • The amenity kit is nice to have on a domestic flight and has decent contents for business class, though is pretty small, and has mediocre quality packaging
  • The blanket is obviously a decent quality and size, though possibly a bit too warm
  • The pillow is high quality and very good
  • Nothing else has changed

Again, this is based on a single transcon flight he took, so I’m sure others will have experiences to share. But given that it’s “day one,” I figured this was worth passing on.

Here are his picture of the bedding:

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Here’s the amenity kit:

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Here’s the bear they’re giving out to celebrate the new product:

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Here’s the menu:

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And here’s the food:

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Bottom line

It’s nice to see a firsthand report. Like I said from the beginning, I think the biggest improvement here will be when United installs a new seat, which is long overdue, given that they have eight seats per row in business class on their legacy United 777s.

Furthermore, the new Polaris Lounges look like a great improvement over the current United Clubs, as does the new bedding.

The rest of the changes seem minor, though United has done a great job marketing them. United is advertising things like bottled water to go, bloody mary and mimosa service, and wine tastings. In theory these aren’t exactly reasons to choose an airline, and most of those are things you could get before anyway if you asked.

There’s no doubt there are some other minor improvements, but in terms of the soft product I think what United deserves the most credit for is how well they’ve marketed it.

Has anyone else flying United Polaris today, and if so, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. Transcon is not “Polaris” yet. It is simply “United Business”. They even explained this in their FAQ. Transcon routes will get rebranded into full “Polaris” mid-2017. Your friend is wrong and you should have done your due diligence, Lucky.

  2. Further to my first comment, directly from UA: “How will the switch to United Polaris affect United p.s.® Premium Service transcontinental flights?
    At first, our p.s. premium cabin service will not change significantly. On December 1, BusinessFirst service on p.s. transcontinental routes will be called United Business®, and it will feature our custom Saks Fifth Avenue pillow and duvet. Previous p.s. features will not change other than the new bedding. Beginning in mid-2017, p.s. business class service will add more of the amenities that are offered with United Polaris business class, including slippers, a Saks Fifth Avenue mattress cushion and elevated dining, to become United Polaris business class instead of United Business.”

  3. this kind of stuff cracks me up. if you don’t like the meal, take a bucket of chicken on board and see how many friends you make, or better yet, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…

  4. I am amazed anyone who reads travel hacking blogs even bothers with United, American, or Delta. I used to be a Continental Platinum for 10 years then the merger with United happened and all the US airlines started a race to the bottom. I stopped buying international tickets on US airlines and burned my miles. Then I stopped redeeming on US airlines when it was feasible to fly someone else. Then I stopped using them even as a conduit to fly other airlines. If you have flown Singapore, Qatar, Emirates, Cathay, hell, even Lufthansa or Air France…why o why would you set foot on a United plane unless you have no other choice :-(. Life is too short to waste your miles on a crappy product!

  5. Ok, I expect nothing but mediocrity coming from United but complain that the blanket was too warm is just a little too much. Maybe your friend should suggest United to offer a controlled temperature blanket.

  6. Yeah that food and amenity kit (among other things) are not reflective in any way of the new Polaris changes. I was at one of the Polaris events they held in San Francisco to show off the new seat, food, and amenities and the international amenity kits are much nicer – with more products and an “ergonomic” eye mask that bulges out away from the eyes so you don’t feel the fabric up against your eyelashes etc. So really the only “polaris” feature of this flight was the Saks bedding… not even the service / etc. reflects Polaris on these transcon routes (the menu card is identical. except for a few different food changes, to the existing PS menu card – nothing new there).

  7. Haven’t flown with United for years however, the food “improvements” remind me of AA’s. Introduction of Celebrity Chefs (none of whom I’ve ever heard of) a few months ago with their new menus in J – just awful. As for that raw kale and cauliflower salad – seriously, who eats this stuff?

  8. Also they are doing variations of the kale salad on regular domestic first class routes – I had one today (on a non-PS route, standard domestic seat). Not a polaris change.

  9. Wait, no one said that there was a bear involved. That’s the most important part of the review. Lucky, why did you bury the lede?

  10. Shanghai to San Francisco was the first flight to have the new United Polaris experience. Perhaps there is a quick trip report from that flight. The teddy bear is a nice touch for launch.

  11. I must agree this post is quite misleading. It is a day one review of a product that was marketed around international flying, not United p.s.

    Here is what United wrote on its Q & A when Polaris was announced:

    How does the switch to United Polaris affect United p.s.® Premium Service transcontinental flights?
    At first, our p.s. premium cabin service will not change significantly. As of December 1, 2016, BusinessFirst service on p.s. transcontinental routes became United Business®, and now features our custom Saks Fifth Avenue pillow and duvet. Previous p.s. features did not change other than the new bedding.

  12. I agree with others that this is *not* Polaris, nor is United claiming it is. p.s. is not Polaris. A better look into what Polaris is today would be to see what they have on the TATL/TPAC flights.

  13. This report is not about an international flight.

    Polaris is for international flights.

    I swear the ‘hate on UA’ instinct among the AA fanboys….

  14. I’m sorry guys, I screwed this one up and didn’t fact check closely enough. I didn’t realize the new Polaris service doesn’t apply to the premium service flights. I was under the assumption it was replacing BusinessFirst in those markets. However, it’s a bit confusing that they’re giving out Polaris teddy bears on a flight that doesn’t have Polaris service.

    I’ve updated the post to reflect this, though of course don’t want to completely delete it, because that will raise even more questions. I’ll do better next time!

  15. The fact that United could blur the lines between their product so much that even experienced travel boggers couldn’t tell the difference is something of an indictment of UA’s marketing.

    How many travellers are going to walk away unimpressed or disappointed in their Polaris experiences that weren’t really Polaris, even though there were many indicators that would suggest it was?

  16. Can we expect to see the thin, beautiful and stylish F/As featured in the commercial, or is that also UA corporate bullshit?

  17. The brief “update” at the start of the post doesn’t mitigate the several paragraphs of false information that follow. Many readers are liable to skip right over the update, since the italics and placement are similar to the format that many bloggers use to disclose their referral bonuses and whatnot. To be fair to United, either the original text should be deleted in its entirety or the update made much more prominent.

  18. If you made a mistake, the article should be taken down and just the apology posted. I am amazed how people jump to conclusions, specially when it comes down to airlines, without doing proper research and giving people the benefit of the doubt. The teddy bear? It is for promotion… you probably have heard that term before? You get to fly business class on a transcon flight and the ‘complaining’ needs to stop. Why don’t you sit in economy? There should be no complaining from your business class seat then!

  19. “don’t want to completely delete it, because”

    Errors, misrepresentation, incorrect information and confusion still generate clicks and views, which I can monetize.

  20. My husband and I flew from Sydney to Los Angeles yesterday (Dec 1 in Australia) and were pleasantly surprised with both the service and food offerings on our Polaris 787-9 flight compared to our flight to Sydney on Nov 20. While the flight attendants were struggling trying to follow all of the new service protocols it was still a far superior experience to our outbound flight. As per the previous comment about the bedding, it was a bit suffocating when you combined the mattress pad, signature blanket and duvet but overall we quite enjoyed the more personalized service.

  21. Lucky, for someone who is supposedly a “very frequent flyer with United”, your friend seems to be somewhat absent minded.

    How could he just realize that today was the launch of United Polaris when United has been talking about it extensively through various venues? I mean, you don’t even have had to be glued to social media to know it was going to happen today. Additionally, did he not remember he booked a PS BusinessFirst seat and not a United Polaris seat?

    I’m sorry, Lucky. This article is a joke. It’s misleading and inaccurate. Save your dignity. Change the title and edit the content to reflect your friends experience on a PS route. Don’t let this mistake be the reason for why you will be flamed for a mistake caused by such an elementary mistake (fact checking).

    All the best.

  22. Oddly enough, I’m traveling soon on a few of the PS flights, and notwithstanding the website info about the PS flights, the flight status information does indeed refer to the cabins as “Polaris First” (on the leg that’s a 777) and “Polaris Business” (on both the 752 and 777 legs).

    Also, the amenity kit is not the same as the prior PS kit. It looks like what they were doing before, a slimmed down version of the “real” Polaris kit. The prior PS kit was a slimmed down version of the international C amenity kit.

  23. I was looking at some flights to South Korea and Japan and have been listed as Polaris. However, there was Polaris Business and Polaris First. Does anyone know the difference between the two? I was under the impression that every video and image I was looking at was Business Class only and that Polaris wasn’t specifically a marketing term for the revamped business cabin.

  24. When I was studying for my Ph.D. in Textile Sciences I studied for two semesters the eldritch discipline of blanket thermostatics. Now when a blanket is too warm, I am capable of pushing it off a little to achieve homeostasis.

    But that is far too much to ask of the general public. Perhaps United can stock a wide variety of color coded blankets in the future.

  25. This post needs to be taken down. The content and opinions within it are based on misinformation. Once again, a poor immature excuse for journalism. Lately, it appears this blog is desperately trying to keep up with others on United reporting but falling far short. TPG has all the scoops on this one.

  26. I flew the “real” Polaris today, SFO/CDG on a Boeing 787.

    Overall, it is a solid product, and a significant upgrade over the legacy service. There are a few take backs, however–meals are served on a tray (which wasn’t the case on legacy CO aircraft) and the bread basket is gone.

    The bedding is outstanding. Super comfortable, and a major upgrade.

    The crew was great, and someone was taking notes in order to improve the service and fine tune in the next few weeks.

    Here is a review with details and pictures:
    https://loungereview.com/day-one-review-united-polaris-flight-experience/

  27. First world problems. Most of you whingers are pathetic. Lucky is human like the rest of us and sometimes makes a mistake. Get over it you dickheads.

  28. United made a huge strategic error by promoting Polaris before the first planes with the new business-seats were available. For the next several months — and, frankly, until 2021 — people will buy business-class on United expecting the fancy Polaris product and amenities only to be disappointed. I get that it takes a considerable time to retrofit an entire fleet, but for Pete’s sake, at least the flagship route and plane should have new product before you launch and promote it.

    Worse yet, as I said, Polaris business-class won’t even be available on a majority — not all, but a majority! — of United aircraft until 2021. That’s years of uncertainty. Who wants to spend $5,000 or whatever it costs not knowing whether you will get the new product or the old crappy product?

  29. I flew the Polaris Business flight Newark to Paris. I must say the bedding is impressive. It is almost too much since the seats are still the same 2-4-2 configuration in 777 Business Class – pretty narrow for Business Class. Most folks shoved the extra blankets in the overhead.
    The bear is cute but just takes up more room. There are more choices on the menu. I was glad to be able to order Thai Chicken Soup and it was quite good. My seatmate had ravioli and enjoyed that. The pre and post main course seemed unchanged. Perhaps a few extra desserts.

    I am glad to see United making the effort to improve business class after all these years of downgrades and take-always. However they would have been well advised to wait for the new seats to be installed in a reasonable portion of the fleet and for the Polaris lounges to be open.

    If I did’t know this was the new Polaris service, I would have thought: “Nice blankets – but what’s up with the bear?” Otherwise, it was pretty much the same.

  30. You should probably just remove this article as it’s misleading and I got here looking for Polaris reviews. Clearly this is not.

  31. I have just flown United Polaris First round trip to Hong Kong. While the new Polaris seats were not available I felt that the whole Polaris thing was a poor gimmick, close to false advertisement. I was not impressed at all and unfortunately, service was the typical poor service one gets on United. I always fly to Hong Kong on Cathay, and what a terrible mistake I made flying on United. I will avoid United Polaris First when flying to Asia or any other destination since a true first class service is provided by many excellent airlines who are service oriented.

  32. Just flew United Polaris First back from Taipei, having flown out on Eva in business.

    While United 1st seat is slightly better than Eva business, I have to agree with Bookee that the service level is terrible compared to Eva. I can’t see how United can continue to exist on routes to Asia when the comparative service level is so poor. 1st class service on United was 2 grumpy 60 year old guys that were not at very attentive to customers. On Eva air, the much friendly staff start out asking what you like to be called, and then always address you that way. Meal service comes and they do things like set your table for you. The FA on United 1st, stood with the table cloth next to me for literally 20 seconds until I eventually figured out that I was supposed to lift out my own table. Very haphazard drinks service on United, I had to call FA a number of times to get a drink, whereas on Eva the FA was always there the instant I had thought about wanting another drink.

    These are just a few examples of service differences. Looking back they seem quite minor, but compared to any other Asian airline I’ve flown to Asia, it just leaves you feeling disappointed in the overall impression. If this is United’s new upgraded service, then sorry, they deserve to fail. All the marketing in the world isn’t going to help, I’ll be choosing anyone but United (and probably any other US based carrier) in the future.

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