United Polaris: Delays, Delays, Delays, And More Delays

Last June United announced the details of Polaris, which is the name of their new international premium cabin experience. This includes new business class seats, better onboard food and amenities, and better lounges. The Polaris product was launched as of December 1, 2016, which is when the Polaris Lounge Chicago opened, as well as when they started offering the new onboard soft product.

I’ve reviewed United’s new 777-300ER Polaris product on a flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong, and Travis has reviewed the Polaris Lounge Chicagoincluding every dish on the menu.


United Polaris seat

From the beginning I was wondering whether the Polaris marketing wasn’t a bit premature. They announced the start date for Polaris as being December 1, even though it would be several months before the first plane featured the new seats. That doesn’t even account for the fact that it would be five years until all the planes would feature the new seats.

Worst of all, that was optimistic. United has been having issues with Zodiac, the designer of their new Polaris seats. Their original plan was to already be reconfiguring existing 777-200 aircraft with the new product, that hasn’t happened. Instead only the 777-300ERs that are being newly delivered feature these seats.

So United hasn’t been keeping up with their promised timeline for Polaris seats, and that’s not the only area where they’re disappointing. United has now announced delays in the opening of new Polaris Lounges.

unitedpolarisloungechicago0021
United Polaris Lounge Chicago

Less than two weeks ago United said that their Polaris Lounges at Newark and San Francisco would be opening by the end of 2017, but that’s not happening anymore. Now United’s “Polaris Tracker” says that the next Polaris Lounges will be opening in San Francisco, Newark, and London, in “early 2018,” and Polaris Lounges in Houston, Los Angeles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and Washington Dulles, will be opening “later in 2018.” I suspect that these estimates are highly optimistic, as other reports have suggested that United is way behind on construction.

So United isn’t living up to their promise when it comes to installing their new seats, and ins’t living up to their promise when it comes to the new lounges. It may very well be two years after the product was announced before you can visit a Polaris Lounge and then board a plane with Polaris seats (since presently the only Polaris Lounge is in Chicago, and there are no planes with Polaris seats flying out of there).

Unfortunately as the construction is delayed, lounges will continue to be overcrowded, given that much of the space is closed and under construction. I experienced this recently at the United Club San Francisco. The issue with the delays isn’t just that passengers aren’t getting the better Polaris Lounge experience, but also that lounges are severely overcrowded in the meantime.

United-Club-San-Francisco - 23

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

Comments

  1. I just flew United “Polaris” EWR to Hong Kong. The United Club in EWR is horrible as I am sure you all know. United operates a 777-200 with 2-2-2 “polaris” seating in business on this route. Thankfully I booked early and had a middle aisle seat so no one would have to walk over me for any reason. No “Polaris” features were ever offered to me…you had to be smart and request them such as a gel filled seat mattress pad and pillow and these were in limited supply. During boarding a passenger cut through the middle aisle I was sitting in and he was promptly yelled at by the FA. She was a HK national so maybe she was used to passengers be more respectful of this but I think she went a bit overboard and made everything awkward by creating a situation. Food was tolerable as well as service so the 16 hour slog to HK was okay. United does not have nice premium headphones for “polaris.” I am used to AA’s nice Bose headphones. United had a horrible headphone that reminds me of US Airways 767 Envoy acoustic “cupping” devices that were worth $1 or less. Good thing I brought my Sony NC headphones with me. It was a great use of 80K United miles for sure but real Polaris would obviously be preferred.

  2. The seat delays are sorta forgivable since it isn’t their fault they are delayed, but it isn’t like zodiac had a clean track record. Construction is less forgivable. I don’t see how it takes multiple years to create a new lounge if you actually want to create it quickly. It’ll just cost a bit more money, and not a lot relative to what they’ve spent on marketing, seats, etc.

  3. I guess, I should lower my expectations for my flight in Polaris business from Newark to Paris next month. No lounge and no seats 🙁

  4. “During boarding a passenger cut through the middle aisle I was sitting in and he was promptly yelled at by the FA. She was a HK national so maybe she was used to passengers be more respectful of this but I think she went a bit overboard and made everything awkward by creating a situation”

    I would have taken down the FAs name and sent united the longest complimentary letter of my life

  5. @captainobvious Permitting and Municipal Code compliance can create delays in a construction timeline, not saying this is the issue, but possible.

  6. United has begun reconfiguring 767s, and the first 767 with Polaris seats should enter service next month.

  7. Well they’ve at least pulled their Polaris ads, which were blanketing the TV airways over the holidays. No sense in advertising how great something is when you aren’t providing it. :/

  8. Sitting in Polaris as I read this. Oddly enough ORD to SFO brought in to accommodate massive weather delay passengers.

    So no Polaris soft product but I can report the hard product is significantly better then old United business but also better then any of the big three business. It is competitive with international business such as ANA and far better then BA.

    The cabin is stylish and my true window seat is very private.

    Fun to fly on relatively short domestic flight and massively better then previous product.

    Still had typical UA issues at various points with ground crew and overcrowded though nice-ish looking lounge. Flight crew nice thus far.

    Btw. 7 delays and flight leaving 6 hours late!

  9. Actually, Lucky is wrong. United said only a “majority” of the long-haul fleet will have the “new” seat by 2021.

  10. The phrase I can think of whenever this Polaris/United situation comes up: “It is what it is”.
    They don’t seem to be making any extra effort to improve their planes and lounges. Whenever I say extra I mean the same thing that American did when they started to get their planes delayed because of Zodiac. I think they got a quick active response and managed to get a great business class seat (albeit a different one). So I think by now pretty much most of their 777-200 has been retrofitted.

  11. Recall the last United reconfiguration of the “new” Business Class took years as well. Nothing new here. As usual.

  12. The UA lounges at SFO are ALWAYS overcrowded. It’s a regular feature of visiting there. Several times I’ve just forgone the lounge to find a quiet space in the airport and use my own hotspot to hook up.

    I was just at the Star Alliance Lounge in the International Terminal at LAX and that is a nice experience. Even an outdoor area with fire pits and rock wall waterfall. Completely different from ANY UA lounge I’ve experienced anywhere. So much better.

  13. And in the next post Qatar Airways CEO is berated for taking about “crap’ US carriers. Surely this totally proves his point!

  14. I flew nonstop sfo to lhr and specifically got the Polaris. Trouble was, it was an old 747, and there was nothing from the Polaris ads that made it to the 747. I had an aisle seat, and when you extended it, the interior seat on my side had to leap over my legs to go to the bathroom. Also, no power outlet or charging outlet, and the space for my feet was designed for a very small person. Definitely not the true Polaris experience.

  15. For the near-future, I would avoid UA and AA from the constant construction across the network for their lounges.

    By the time all of their retrofits and renovations are complete, JetBlue will already be taking delivery of European-bound Mint planes.

  16. I thought Zodiac was the manufacturer, not designer. Isn’t the designer Acumen? Either way, as someone who works in the construction industry it’s extremely difficult to build ANYTHING let alone at an airport, while still providing existing services. Mainly due to codes and regulations and things of that type. Maybe they were optimistic to start, but it’s kind of out of their hands. Same with the seats, it’s Zodiac’s fault.

  17. Rome was not built in one day. It is easy to pontificate from one’s high chair as a self-anointed travel guru who does not have to deal with the Zodiacs or other third-party companies that must deliver in order for Polaris to become a reality. So just chill! We’ll get Polaris when we get Polaris, and I suspect that it’ll be transformative.

    G’day.

  18. It’s still United…and most likely always will be.

    Even if United ran all A380s for all routes, with each seat being a queen bed, it’d still be United with crews that hate their jobs, hate management, and take it out on the passengers.

    I’m thinking the only solution is to scrap the entire operation and sell its assets off to another airline. and when I say assets, I refer to the physical property. Their employees are more often than not liabilities.

  19. As a 1K, who has been in the Polaris Lounge in ORD 11 times since it opened, I can share it is an excellent lounge that had been working out the issues of overcrowding, especially during the late afternoon and early banking of flights.

    I have also experienced the new Polaris 777-300ER hard product on a routing from HKG to SFO. The only element of the hard product I noticed an improvement in was the privacy and all aisle access. The seat however; is less comfortable than the Dreamliner and old United 2-4-2 product. The seat does not have as many personalization settings for recline and positioning of footrest. If you are lucky enough to get a window seat, as I did, do not plan on having the ability to stand anywhere close to upright as you slide through the narrow alley the access the aisle. If you are on the aisle, you will get bumped by something during the flight.

  20. I’ve been a United 1K flyer for many years. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with UA. Living in Denver, CO I decided to stick with UA due to the many options for flights. When I first saw the ads for Polaris I was truly excited. I would literally go out of my way to book flights where I had an aisle seat in Business/First. I would do everything possible to avoid the 2-4-2 configuration (ugh). I finally experienced the all aisle flight from San Francisco to Singapore. I’ve experienced the (double ugh) SFO lounge many times. It seems to be getting more and more crowded. I loved the thought of all aisle seating but then I experienced it and I don’t know about you, but I felt a bit claustrophobic. The seats were not as comfortable as I thought they’d be, especially trying to get the footrest to extend without having to lie down. Quite the disappointment to say the least. As to the best lounge I’ve been to… Omigosh, I LOVE the ANA lounge in Narita!

  21. Ok, so can someone shed some light, then…on what my lounge options will be in August at SFO? I will be a first class passenger. Is the old Global First lounge still open? Am I getting stuck in a United Club?

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