United to fly its new(ish) Polaris business class seat on all London – New York flights

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Anyone who is impatient to try out the new British Airways Club Suite should hope that it doesn’t go the way of United’s Polaris.

Back in 2016, the American carrier announced a completely new business class concept featuring a brand new seat design as well as lounge refurbishments and soft product. Polaris was widely welcomed as a step-change improvement in United’s business class offering. Unfortunately, it was a slow roll out. Delays at the seat manufacturer meant that in the first few years very few Polaris-fitted aircraft were flying.

Things have improved since then and United now has a special Polaris mini-site that tracks the extent of the refit across the long-haul fleet. Looking at it today, Polaris is fitted on 68% of the long haul fleet. The goal is to have the new business class seat on all aircraft by the end of 2020.

United Polaris Cabin PR

The Polaris seat is based on the Optima product designed by Priestmangoode. It is an angled seat in alternating configurations, meaning that some seats are more private than others due to the location of the side table. Here is a PR photo from United:

United Polaris seat pr

The good news is that United actually flies many of these aircraft to London. The transatlantic market is one of the most competitive in the world and London-New York is the only billion dollar route. Whilst American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have joint ventures with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic respectively, United flies alone. This means that in order to compete, United needs to offer its most competitive product.

United retrofits 767s in premium configuration

To achieve this, United has been retrofitting 21 of its Boeing 767 aircraft into a super-premium configuration, increasing the amount of Polaris business class seats and introducing a premium economy cabin.  At the same time, it is cutting back sharply on standard economy seating.

In total, the aircraft will have:

46 Polaris business class seats

22 premium economy seats

47 extra-legroom economy seats

52 regular economy seats (very, very small)

Here is the seat map, which makes it obvious just how premium-heavy it is (click to enlarge):

United 767 high j seat map

From the 15th September:

United will introduce a 5th daily flight from Heathrow to Newark

You are guaranteed to get the new Polaris seat on all five of them

Across the five flights, United will operate the most business class seats of any US airline between the two cities.

Conclusion

United will soon be flying five of these refitted Boeing 767 aircraft daily between Newark and Heathrow, all of which will have Polaris. It will no longer be a guessing game as to what seat you will get.  If you fly United, you will get the same model of aircraft with the same seating configuration on all five flights.

United is also in the planning stages of re-fitting their Heathrow lounge at Terminal 2 in line with other new Polaris lounges in the US. Heathrow is one of only three planned Polaris lounges outside North America.  They need to be careful here, because at present it is easily the best of the Star Alliance lounges in Terminal 2.

If you are wondering what the Polaris seat is like, we are too. Neither Rob, Anika or myself have ever flown the product, although we are keen to review it in the future.

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Comments

  1. NigelthePensioner says:

    I have always believed that it is not just the seat, but the number of seats in a premium cabin that equally contributes to the experience on board. Hence the rather unimpressive response to the BA 777 Club World cabin when it came out. I feel the same about the BA A350 Im afraid. The greater the mass, the less the exclusivity. This is why the “pre cabin” on the BA 789 and upstairs on a 744 work so well and are so popular.

    • Catalan says:

      Well both the new BA Club Suite and the Virgin Upper Class Suite will have 44 seats installed between doors 1 and 2 on their A350s, so those are two business class configurations you won’t like!

    • Jake Mc says:

      Agreed. BA 777 CW is a school dormitory. There is a danger of that happening again to a certain extent but hopefully the doors will enable one to be removed from the effects when seated.

      • As long as the door doesn’t fall apart. I’ve read reports on FlyerTalk that people are pulling the red emergency handle (either deliberately or mistakenly) causing the door to come off its track. And it’s only been a week of sub 2 hour journeys 🙁

        Which backs up my theory that you should never warn anyone not to do something as that just highlights the problem and people then test out what happens when you do.

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        What else do you expect? practically all airlines have similar layouts.

  2. ‘If you are wondering what the Polaris seat is like, we are too. Neither Rob, Anika or myself have ever flown the product, although we are keen to review it in the future.’

    I see what you did there 😉

  3. Mikeact says:

    I guess book on line via AerLingus and earn Avios ….. assuming they are still partners.

  4. Just pay and fly it.

  5. The Premium cabin is bookable as Economy Plus (free with status) for now it seems. Look out for a 2-2-2 seating config in rows 20-23 on the 767-300 and some 777s

    I’ve enjoyed it for free my last few trips and it’s really good for economy.

  6. OT highly unexpected: SK opens London, Heathrow (LHR) – Scandinavian Mountains Airport (SCR)
    https://www.sasgroup.net/en/sas-introduces-direct-services-to-the-new-airport-in-salen-trysil/

    • Great news! Not that it was overly difficult to get to Trysil now (fly to Oslo and get the bus), but this should make it a lot easier.

      For anyone who’s interested – Trsyil is great for beginners, and there is quite a big focus on kids, too (it is Scandinavia, after all!). There are two excellent Radissons – one in the center and one in the mountains. Both are great, though for the mountains one you would really need a car to get around & it’s a toll road to get up and down.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Once a week on Saturday – so not very different from a couple of other direct seasonal flights (Are, Rovaniemi etc) and not super useful for those who want to do a weekend/long weekend out there.

  7. United1K-out-of-the-UK says:

    I am a United 1K and have been so for many years. Also a one million miler. I say this so my comments are truly seen to be objective. The Polaris product in my mind is split in three, Polaris lounge, the seat, and the service on-board.

    The Polaris lounge is fantastic. Truly First Class lounge with the choice to dine at a table table to eat a 3-course meal or enjoy a wide selection of hit and cold food from the buffet. Free and great drink selection. There is always a wide variety and styles of seating.

    The Polaris seat is good although I feel it to be cramped. There is not that much space to move around. The Polaris bedding is very comfortable. With the angled configuration every seat has aisle access which is a bonus. Due to this the every second seat has a more enclosed and private feeling with a narrow access to the aisle around the bottom of the next seat.

    Now the problem. The service on-board has not changed in my mind over the years. More often than not it feels like it is a trouble for the crew to provide any level of service that can be compared to business class let alone defined as Polaris. The food quality is ok, but again not great and not business class quality. It’s been years since they had any decent red wine. And the crew could look a lot more smarter.

    When I fly into Asia, I generally fly with Lufthansa, Thai, or Turkish. Just recently I flew LOT for my first time and they blew me away. Extremely attentive service. Fantastic quality of food (look and taste). The seat was in a Dreamliner and not the best configuration but certainly comfortable.

    I don’t pay to fly business with United. I use my upgrades and I always leave the flight with the feeling there is a lot more they need to do if they wanted me to pay. They seriously need to benchmark their entire look and service against others in the Star Alliance and outside. Crew that look smart in crisp uniforms would be a start.

  8. RussellH says:

    > Crew that look smart in crisp uniforms would be a start.

    Really? As long as the crew are easily identifiable I do not give toss how they dress, though I think it would be nice if they were given something that they might actually want to wear away from the job (the only example I have seen was British Caledonian in the ealy 1970s).

    Better food and wines / beers **would** be a good start, thought.

    • Shoestring says:

      sounds like you never flew with the Lauda Air girls

      • RussellH says:

        ?

      • Lady London says:

        Russell means those little kilts the British Caledonian girls had. Several males of my acquaintance have commented nostalgically on those over the years !

        • Shoestring says:

          I am one of those who nostalgically remembers the short skirts & the pretty girls

          so hit me, millennials! – I actually like to see pretty young girls in short skirts!

          • Bootlace says:

            As a fellow perve of a certain age I wholeheartedly agree with you Harry!!

          • Most straight men do, even millennials…

            You’ll find most complaints are about people perving over them as opposed to just acknowledging they’re attractive. I know I’d feel incredibly uncomfortable if I was a young woman who had elderly men gawping at my legs while I was trying to do my job!

          • Lady London says:

            Times were different then, Callum :-). I sense you’re a millenial !

            One thing that doesn’t change is biology and it’s a good sign for our species if men still enjoy looking at young girls in short skirts. It’s actually a lot more innocent and the pure normal level of admiration (and nothing more) of most men shouldn’t be criminalised. Yes there was exploitation of women (and I grew up with it and could tell you some stories) and some things needed to change, that have changed. Yet boys will be boys and should be boys so far as appreciation of little kilts on the right sort of girl goes!

          • I recommend you try the new Four Seasons Athens (actually a seaside resort) where the hotel has been refurbished at truly ludicrous expense to recreate 1950’s jet-set interiors and the staff have been told to dress accordingly ….

  9. Better aircraft, not just Polaris cabins, would make me consider flying across the pond with United. And then there is the question of food and service.
    Until then, Virgin and BA have my business, albeit corporate policy makes me choose the cheaper of the two.

  10. Dev,

    Agreed – a 767 is hardly an aspirational aircraft.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Fully agree, that’s one thing that’s putting me off UA on this route. I’ve flown 787s with the Polaris seat a few times and that’s an excellent product, but 767 just doesn’t cut it.

  11. Riccatti says:

    Polaris Lounge means no access to Star Alliance Gold. Only ticketed business class passengers.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Good point. This is the policy at EWR – where you also need to show your passport as it seems people were selling (?) boarding passes that give access (note you don’t have access to the Polaris lounge at EWR if flying UA on domestic, Caribbean routes, to Hawaii etc)

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