Aviation News

June 3, 2016

United Unveils New ‘Polaris’ Business Class Product

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By: Gordon Gebert, Jr.
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United Airlines unveiled their new international business class product, Polaris, at a highly anticipated media event this morning in New York City. After much speculation of what was to come in the event hosted by President and CEO Oscar Munoz, the ‘stars’ (quite literally) aligned and a new seat and lounge concept was revealed to the eager crowd of media and dedicated, top-tier customers. Mum was the word from United leading up to the big day but it was widely reported that a new seat was in store after images of the new Boeing 777-300ER seat plan were leaked.

The event was hosted at the prestigious Gotham Hall venue in midtown-Manhattan where United flight attendants welcomed guests to a breakfast reception complete with recently announced partner Illy Coffee products. However the breakfast Stroopwafel was nowhere to be found. At 10:00 sharp guests were ushered into the star lit reception hall as Oscar Munoz welcomed attendees, touting how proud he was of the recent turn in the direction of the airline. This was Oscar’s first major public appearance following resumption of his duties after a heart transplant earlier in the year, something he was eager to put behind him as he laid the groundwork for a customer-focused United. Similar to the focus of Delta, and of course long-touted by JetBlue, Oscar spoke of the continued emphasis and move towards ‘caring’ for both employees and customers alike – what is being called the ‘new spirit’ of United. After discussing some recent improvements in on-time performance and other operating specs it was a quick transition to the introduction of the new seat and lounge concept, which will be the company’s most significant product transformation in over a decade. Invoking Ariana Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution, he spoke of the need for a product that focused on allowing the customer a better night’s sleep, from airport to aircraft, ensuring upon arrival at their destination they would be well rested.

The seat was designed in partnership with Acumen Design Associates and PriestmanGoode and will be manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace Seats. In line with other industry leaders, the new seat offers direct aisle access with a 1-2-1 configuration, discarding the 2-2-2 and 2-4-2 mixed product currently offered on the long-haul fleet. Customers will be able to enjoy a 180 degree, lie-flat seat measuring in at 6 foot, 6 inches complete with various personal storage areas, a 16-inch HD screen, reading light, and a ‘Do Not Disturb’ function on the seats exterior. Along with the new seat design, a new amenity kit, cool-gel pillows, blankets, and sleep pad will be offered – all designed towards the perfect night’s sleep. Not to mention the pillows and blankets are designed by Saks Fifth Avenue! Slippers will be available on all flights with pajamas upon request for flights 12 hours or longer. Customers will also enjoy a revitalized dining experience, with seasonal updated menus and a refreshed wine offering.

The new United Polaris lounges will be an upgrade for business class customers who will now have access to showers,  day beds, and other amenities usually only afforded to those flying in first class. The first renovated lounge will open in Chicago O’Hare in in December with more to follow in 2017 at international hubs such as EWR, LAX, IAD, IAH, SFO, NRT, LHR, and HKG.

The new Polaris experience will take flight in December 2016 with the introduction of the  777-300ER, which are to be Newark based and speculated to be flown on longer routes to Asia, India, and Israel. The 787-10 and A350-1000 will be delivered with the seat offering followed by the 777-200 and some 767-300 aircraft. A decision has yet to be made regarding the 787-8, 787-9, 767-400, and 757-200 fleet. There was also no mention of the Economy or Economy Plus product on the new aircraft, but expect it to be similar to what is currently being offered on the existing fleet. Although with American and now Delta introducing a dedicated Premium Economy seat maybe another VIP event is on the horizon?