June 4, 2016

United Launches Polaris Business Class

United's long lagged the other major US carriers (American/Delta) in terms of business class offerings.  While United "BusinessFirst" is pretty great on the upper deck of the 747, the product is 8 across on the 777 with a 2-4-2 configuration!  That means 4/8 seats have to step over a neighbor to get to the aisle.  Terrible.  I haven't flown Delta or American in a premium cabin but both products are supposed to be far superior to United.

United does offer first class which is marginal at best and being phased out as the 747 fleet gets retired.

Earlier in the week, United held a customer event in New York to launch their new business class experience dubbed Polaris Business Class.  I'm not sure the fancy branding is necessary but at least someone got paid millions of dollars to come up with the name.  The seat will begin rolling out later this year on new 777-300ER aircraft.  It is going to take years (maybe 5) to add the new seat to the existing fleet but they claim that after 12/1/16, you'll be flying "United Polaris Business Class" even if you have the old seat.  That means the soft product should be the same across the entire fleet.

Polaris features a completely redesigned lounge experience with preflight dining at 9 global locations.

A brand new seat and cabin design.  The seat will be 23" wide and turn into a 6'6" fully flat bed.

Updated dining/drinking.

New amenity kits with Cowshed products.  Pajamas on flights over 12 hours!

Each seat will feature direct aisle access (huge) as well as a do not disturb sign and in seat lighting.  United's partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue to provide the bedding which should be an upgrade from the current offerings.  Mattress cushions will also be available upon request.

Overall, I'd say this is pretty massive upgrade from the current product.  It makes United much more competitive with Delta and American from a business class perspective and while they still won't be able to compete with the ME3 or top notch Asian carriers in first class, they'll be a bit more competitive in business class...especially when that is the highest end product on offer.

I'd say this makes United and Chase Ultimate Rewards points more valuable since you can actually fly United's own metal for less miles than partners.  In the future, flying Polaris Business Class roundtrip to Europe for 115,000 miles will be a pretty good deal.  Especially when compared to something like BA first that will cost >200,000 miles roundtrip with fuel surcharges.

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