United Polaris Premium Cabin
United Airlines has announced a rebranding and reinvention of their premium cabin(s), Polaris, that will launch on December 1st, 2016 with new inflight food and beverage experiences, new custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, new amenity kits and the new United Polaris lounge in Chicago. The United Polaris business class seat will first take flight in December on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and subsequently on Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, as well as on Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 retrofits.
United’s Polaris partners include airline design firms Acumen Design Associates (which developed the seat used in Polaris) and PriestmanGoode. Working with seat manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace United Kingdom, PriestmanGoode customized the seat pattern for United. “Sleep was a big focus, and the seat was designed round that theme,” said PriestmanGoode director Nigel Goode.
This announcement has been greeted favorably by travel media. The old business product, BusinessFirst, was an oxymoron capable of making you forget “Jumbo Shrimp” and “Military Intelligence”, and the hard product was definitely dated. With their latest move, United is making a strong statement and demonstrating their commitment to being competitive with American and Delta. With the launch of Polaris, United will be decommissioning BusinessFirst and Global First, legacy brand names that survived the merger / acquisition of Continental that were confusing to the customer. The retirement of Global First means that United will no longer provide an International First Class product when Polaris is fully deployed. While United did not emphasize this in their announcement, it was in the FAQ they distributed.
Will there be changes to United Global First?
In December 2016, when United Global First becomes United Polaris Global First, travelers will see enhancements to amenities, dining and service that will improve the overall travel experience. In addition to receiving the higher-quality United Polaris amenities, United Polaris Global First will still have the elevated amenities and specialized attention you’ve come to expect from our international first class service. As we update our fleet over the next several years to incorporate our signature United Polaris direct-aisle-access seating, we will be phasing out the first class cabin and moving toward a two-cabin experience for international travel.
More details on the new Polaris Business class:
It’s an interesting and well thought out layout. Kind of a cross between herring bone and straight ahead in a 2-4-2 configuration that takes a little getting used to. It made me say, “Yeah it’s 2-4-2, but they really want me to view it as 2-2-2.” The aisle seats on the window grouping are herring bone angled towards the center of the plane and the window seats are laid out straight ahead with an angled passage for direct aisle access. The seats in the center section alternate between straight ahead and herring bone in a similar fashion with all having aisle access as well. It’s a dense configuration with sixty seats fitting onto their 777 platform. That’s a sound business decision as there’s no loss of seats from previous configurations.
United Polaris cabins feature forward-facing, direct-aisle-access seats that recline flat, providing sleeping spaces that are up to 6 feet 6 inches long and up to 23 inches wide. In locations where two seats are next to each other, there’s a powered privacy divider so passengers can tuck themselves away and forget that there are other travelers nearby. United also included an illuminated “do not disturb” sign that lets the passenger signal to flight attendants that they’d prefer not to be awakened.
In a first-of-its-kind partnership, United has worked with luxury goods department store Saks Fifth Avenue to create custom bedding designed to provide the best sleep in the sky. Because temperature is crucial to sleeping soundly, passenger have the choice of two different blankets — a quilted duvet or a lighter throw blanket. On flights longer than 12 hours, mattress cushions are also available upon request. If passengers tend to warm up when they sleep, they can ask for a cooling gel memory foam pillow instead of (or in addition to) the Saks Fifth Avenue pillow found at each seat.
There are several dining options so passengers can choose the right time and pace for their meal. It’s a multi-course inflight dining experience, with each element “presented in its proper order” once the flight reaches altitude. Passengers eager to get as many hours of rest as possible can choose to enjoy a seated meal in the United Polaris Lounge before the flight so they can go right to sleep in the air. Those that prefer to eat in flight but don’t want to wait for each course, can opt for Express Dining service and receive a single tray with the full meal all at once, at the time of your choosing. For those mid-flight cravings, there are self-serve snacks and beverages that passengers can get at their convenience. (For an excellent look at the new Polaris Lounge concept, read LoungeReview’s article. )
When curating the selection of United Polaris amenities, they put a strong emphasis on sleep. Cozy slippers are perfect for quick trips out of one’s seat or just standing and stretching. In the amenity kit, they provide premium sleep mist and skincare items from Soho House’s Cowshed Spa. Ear plugs and an ergonomic eye mask help block out any ambient distractions while. On flights longer than 12 hours, United also offers 100% cotton pajamas upon request.
All of this is certainly good news for United/Continental customers that have been waiting for their airline to catch up with the competition and clarify the premium offerings. After December 1, 2016 there will be a slow rollout of Polaris that will debut the first Polaris-fitted 777 in January of 2017 and then a gradual retrofit of their long-haul fleet. Boeing 747’s will not be retro-fitted as they are being phased out of United asset portfolio in the near future. It’s realistic for customers to expect full rollout to last two to three years. With the first converted plane to be delivered in January 2017, the December 2016 launch will probably see the new lounge, dining and some amenities at that time.
In the future, we’ll take a look at United Polaris as it compares to American and Delta’s business class products.
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