United launched it’s new Polaris Business Class in June this year, with new pod-like seats, new Polaris lounges and new inflight amenities (read all the details here). On December 1, they opened the first Polaris lounge in Chicago’s O’Hare airport and started offering the in-flight amenities and food as PolarisFirst and PolarisBusiness class, replacing the previous GlobalFirst and GlobalBusiness class products. This month United will receive their first new Boeing B777-300ER plane with the new Polaris seats for the full Polaris experience and will start flying them in February! Find out the seat plans and routes after the break!
Polaris is probably the best news I’ve heard from United since their merger with Continental in 2010. The first reports from the new Polaris lounge in Chicago and of the onboard experience have been very positive. But the hard product is still the most important part of a premium flight experience – and now United is getting their first plane with the new seats and has published the schedule:
All of United’s new Boeing B777-300ER will receive the Polaris Business Class seats and the first one will start flying between Newark and San Francisco on February 16th. Flights on this route between two large United hubs will give the crews a change to familiarize themselves with the planes and work out any “bugs”. On March 25th, United will start using the new B777 on the busy San Francisco – Hong Kong route, offering the much improved seat on a 15 hour flight with lots of competition from premier airlines like Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific!
The new plane will offer 60 business class seats, but no more first class seats, as United is phasing out GlobalFirst with the introduction of Polaris. They are replacing Boeing B747-400 with 12 First and 52 Business Class seats on that route.
Polaris features a layout of 1-2-1 seats per row, making it much more comfortable than the tight 2-4-2 layout on other B777 or the main deck of the B747. The single seats should offer great privacy for solo travelers and there are a few “honeymoon” seats for couples in the middle.
For coach passengers, it will be much less pleasant as United is moving to 10 Economy Class seats per row in a 3-4-3 layout, from currently 9 seats on the B777, a very tight fit and not comfortable even for skinny people on that long a flight! Competitors Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific both offer more Economy space with one less seat per row in a 3-3-3 layout.
United will also be receiving new Boeing B787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 with the new seats and will retrofit existing B767 and B777-200. This will likely take 2 years or more and in the meantime, the plane you fly is subject to change, so don’t get too excited about flying in the new seats: I experienced the previous retrofit from United’s old recliner seats to lie-flat seats and only booked flights that were scheduled to have the new seats – just to find a last-minute equipment change at the gate.
I’m excited about the new seats, new lounges and new inflight amenities and am looking forward to experiencing it sometime soon, hopefully on the Hong Kong route. I will be bracing myself for the disappointment of finding an old seat until the retrofit is complete sometime in 2018 or 2019 though and suggest you do the same!