Starting December 1, 2016 United’s new Business Class product Polaris will begin service, eventually flying to 330 destinations in more than 50 countries, on the following aircraft:

  • Boeing 777-300ER
  • Boeing 787-10
  • Airbus A350-1000
  • Retrofitted Boeing 767-300’s and 777-200’s.

The first to be updated will be the 777-300ER’s and the rest will follow. Polaris will be standard on all international Business Class routes.

The Old Business Class

It is a big pet peeve of mine when a Business Class product has a seat layout that doesn’t provide aisle access to all passengers. This is currently the case with all of United’s international Business Classes which either have a 2-1-2, 2-2-2, or 2-4-2 configuration. Here is a seat map from SeatGuru for a Boeing 777-200, which as a 2-4-2 layout.

Boeing-777-UA-SeatGuru

 

united 2-4-2 on 777-200
United BusinessFirst on a 777-200 flight from London to Washington, D.C.

Polaris will have a 1-2-1 seat layout. I will be the happiest to see that 2-4-2 configuration go– it is by far the worst with absolutely no way to avoid climbing over or being climbed over at some point on a flight.

The New Business Class

While comfort and convenience are definitely the most important aspect of any premium cabin experience, especially if you want to arrive rested to your international destination, United isn’t just changing their seats. The entire Business Class experience is being revamped, with an improved inflight dining experience, custom bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue, updated amenity kits and nine new United Polaris lounges.

Below are the highlights of the new Polaris Business Class.

Seats

  • Suite-like pods (although not fully enclosed)
    • Do-Not-Disturb signs you can turn on/off
  • 1-2-1 seat configuration with direct access to the aisle for every seat
    • Divider of the two middle seats can be put down
  • 180-degree flat-bed recline
  • Up to 6 foot 6 inches of bed space

Bedding / Amenity Kit

  • Bedding designed by Saks Fifth Avenue
    • Duvet
    • Lightweight day-blanket
    • Large and small pillow for each passenger
    • Mattress cushions available upon request
  • Amenity kit with all the necessities plus fancier products from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa, like a lavender pillow mist
  • Slippers
  • Pajamas available on flights over 12 hours

Dining

  • Welcome pre-departure beverage and truffle
  • New in-flight menus updated seasonally, developed alongside The Trotter Project and its well-known chefs
    • On daytime flights longer than eight hours and on all flights longer than 12 hours, hot mid-flight snacks like lobster macaroni and cheese will be available
  • Upgraded wine list with wine flights

Lounges

Chicago will see the first new Polaris Business Class lounge, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow will follow.

  • Better seating with new chairs and private daybeds
  • Showers
  • Hot meals served in a “boutique restaurant setting”

To take a virtual tour and check out the new features in depth, check out United’s launch page.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 7.39.27 PM

Polaris Versus the Competition

It was about time–United was behind when it came to their Business Class. American Airlines’ is in the process of revamping their Business Class to a 1-2-1 configuration and Delta One already offers this.

The one edge that United has on American Airlines’ in regards to Business Class is that United has more fully lie flat beds on it’s existing international Business Classes, although American should catch up as they continue the reconfiguration of their long haul planes.

And the (not so surprising) twist…

One Mile at a Time pointed out, from a quote found in the FAQ section of United’s launch page, that the airline plans on phasing out international First Class completely, replacing it with Polaris:

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 5.50.17 PM
(click to enlarge)

Delta doesn’t have an international First Class, and American Airlines is headed in that direction as well, so that is why I see this move by United as not so surprising.

Want to Give Polaris a Go?

Until June 30, 2016, the United Explorer Card comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card. You can also get 5,000 more bonus miles for adding an authorized user, so I think of this as a 55,000 bonus mile card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

There are also targeted promotions going on with sign-bonus offers that can get you up to 78k United miles.

Bottom Line

United is completely overhauling their Business Class product, on all planes that fly all international routes. The Polaris experience will start rolling out this December, first with a new lounge in Chicago and an updated in-flight experience on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. It is a welcome change as United plays catch up with American Airlines and Delta who have been working on upgrading their premium products for some time now.

For further details, read United’s press release or the FAQ from their Polaris launch page.

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