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This article was last updated Jul 02, 2017, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
*Update: Polaris seats are now available.
United’s new Business Class, Polaris, is being aggressively marketed by United.
It’s a big step up from the current United BusinessFirst product, offering features like:
- Direct access to the aisle from every seat
- Privacy dividers
- Mattress pads and customized pillow selections from Saks Fifth Avenue (a limited number of mattress pads and custom pillows will be boarded on each flight, first come, first serve)
- Brand new, upgraded meal concepts
- 3 course wine flights on night time flights
- A bloody mary cart on daytime flights
- A dedicated airport lounge featuring daybeds and full tableside meal service
That’s going to make United a more attractive option for award travel and more.
In this article
When will Polaris seats be available?
Polaris is advertised as coming on December 1, 2016. But that’s just the date United rolled out the upgraded food, wine, and pillows / blankets.
United has over 100 planes that serve these international routes, and that’s too little time to install brand new seats on all those aircraft.
The first planes with the new Polaris seat are the 777-300, which are brand new planes being put in service during 2017.
Here’s when 777-300 planes will go into service:
- March 25: San Francisco to Hong Kong will be the first route to get it full time – starting March 25, 2017, with the 777-300 replacing 747 aircraft.
- May 5: Newark to Tel Aviv (flight 90 / 91).
- June 14: San Francisco to Tokyo (flight 837 / 838)
- August 1: San Francisco to Taipei
- Over a dozen more 777-300s will arrive during 2017, and more routes will be confirmed shortly
- United will also runs domestic test runs from San Francisco to Newark.
As for United’s other international aircraft…
- 777-200: These start conversion in late 2017 (many of these are legacy United Airlines aircraft with a Global First cabin, and United has financial and cost motivation to reconfigure these into the Polaris layout). Seats will be in a 1-2-1 layout and will start flying in early 2018.
- 767-300: About a dozen of these aircraft are still in the pre-merger 3 cabin layout with Global First, Business, and Economy. These are set to start rolling out with Polaris seats in the fall of 2017. There are no plans we know of for the remaining aircraft which are currently in a standard 2 cabin layout.
- 787-8/9/10: The 787-8/9 aircraft will be retrofitted as they go through heavy maintenance checks, with the first going through during 2018. The brand new 787-10, which will arrive in a few years, will have Polaris. They will have a 1-2-1 layout, though the seats will be longer than those on the 777s.
- 757: No word on these, but don’t expect Polaris style seats. American and Delta don’t have direct aisle access seating on their comparable 757s, and most of these planes are now spending their time on P.S. routes between Newark and California. Many will be retired beginning in 2018.
- 747: These will be retired in late 2017 with no Polaris seat reconfiguration
- A350: Brand new planes which will have Polaris seating.
The 777-200s are the biggest part of the international fleet, at about 50 aircraft, followed by the various versions of the 787.
Based on this, over half of United’s fleet could be in full Polaris mode within about 2 years. And the 777-300 will be a ‘guaranteed’ Polaris ride shortly, most likely on routes from Newark to Asia and India and San Francisco to Asia.
What about lounges?
There is a full featured Polaris lounge ready for passengers at Chicago O’Hare in the C Concourse, next to the existing United Club.
Other Polaris lounges are coming to the Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Dulles, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo airports. Here’s what we’ve seen so far on the timing of lounge openings:
- San Francisco: Opening by early 2018. The Polaris lounge will take over the existing United Club space in the international terminal, plus add a lower level where the Singapore KrisFlyer lounge is currently located. The existing First Class lounge will convert to a United Club, while another United Club will be built across the hallway.
- Newark: Early 2018 opening. The Polaris lounge will eventually take over the current large United Club near the terminal C security checkpoint. A new United Club will open in the C concourse later.
- London: Early 2018 opening, likely including the space currently used for the Global First Class lounge.
- Houston: 2018 opening n the upper level of the current United Club in terminal.
- Los Angeles: 2018 opening in the former International First Class lounge space (though United has not confirmed this).
- Tokyo Narita: 2018 opening.
- Hong Kong: 2018 opening
- Washington-Dulles: 2018 opening.
What amenities / food / beverage will the lounges have?
The lounges will offer…
- A buffet with light cold and warm food options
- Sit down table service with comfort food like shrimp and grits or fried chicken, depending on the local chef partnering with the lounge
- Premium wines like The Prisoner and Daou Cabernet Sauvignon and Veuve Champagne
- Premium spirits like WhistlePig Rye Whiskey
- Nap areas that can be booked for one hour at a time
- Several showers with clothes pressing while you shower
- A washer / dryer for quick laundry
- At your seat beverage service
- A concierge who can assist with restaurant recommendations and travel issues
If you love wine and good spirits, you’re going to love what’s on tap at the Polaris lounges.
Here’s a sample wine menu.
And here’s a sample spirits menu.
Wines include premium selections like The Prisoner and Moet & Chandon Rose, while spirits include Auchentoshan 12 year scotch, Hangar 1 vodka, Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon, and WhistlePig rye.
Who can get in the Polaris lounge?
Only same day Polaris passengers (either connecting to/from a different airport, or arriving/departing the same airport as the lounge), and passengers in Business or First Class on long haul international Star Alliance flights (only if the long haul flight is departing the same airport as the lounge – no arrival privileges) can access the lounges.
- Star Alliance Gold members, and even Global Services members traveling in Economy Class won’t get in.
- Domestic Business or First Class, including P.S. flights, and flights to Hawaii won’t get in.
- Shorter non-Polaris international flights in Business Class like Houston to Lima won’t get in either, even though they have lie flat seats, as they’re labeled as ‘United Business’ instead of ‘Polaris.’
What about P.S. flights?
These will not be marketed as Polaris flights, so you won’t get Polaris lounge access while flying Business Class on a ticket that only involves domestic P.S. flights. These flights will get Polaris pillows and blankets, but other major changes aren’t planned yet.
United awards in Polaris class are (for now) still the same price as regular Business Class awards, so you can fly Polaris for just 57,500 miles one way from the U.S. to Europe for example, making them a great use of United miles, or Chase Ultimate Rewards® points that transfer to United miles.
Where will pajamas be available?
United is offering every Polaris passenger pajamas on routes where the flight time averages 12 hours over the course of a year. Here are the routes that will get pajamas:
San Francisco to/from…
- Hong Kong
- Tel Aviv
- Hong Kong
- Hong Kong
Los Angeles to/from
Notable routes that won’t get pajamas because they don’t cross the threshold include Newark – Tel Aviv, Newark – Sao Paolo, Houston – Buenos Aires, Denver – Tokyo, Los Angeles – Tokyo, and San Francisco – Tokyo.
What kind of wine will be served?
6 kinds of wine will be offered on each flight – 3 white and 3 red. Within each group of 3, there will 2 be to traditional ‘favorite’ varieties like Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, and one ’emerging’ variety like Grenache – Syrah.
Sample wines that may appear onboard include…
- Taft Street Chardonnay
- Sebastian Riffault Sancerre
- Mastroberadino Mastro Greco
- Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon
- Dobbes “Wines by Joe” Pinot Noir
- Hahn GSM Grenache Syrah
What kind of food will be served?
Food will look familiar, with a small appetizer and salad to start, followed by a choice of 4 to 5 main courses, and a choice of cheese, ice cream sundae, or pastries for dessert. You’ll also get a truffle with champagne before taking off.
Mid flight snacks will offer the usual cold snacks on shorter flights, and on longer 10 hour+ flights one or two hot options will be offered like lobster mac and cheese or tomato soup with grilled cheese.
The big change will be the number of choices in rotation, so you’re less likely to be stuck with the same meal on different routes.