If you’ve travelled on the London Underground Waterloo & City line between London Waterloo and Bank stations recently, you could not fail to have noticed extensive advertising for United Airlines’ new “Polaris” business class.
“Polaris” is the new brand name for United Airlines’ new business class. It has been designed with the assistance of London based design agency PriestmanGoode. Polaris officially launched this week, on 1 December 2016.
The Polaris brand encompasses:
a) A new lounge experience with Polaris lounges to be rolled out across United Airlines’ network.
The first Polaris lounge has opened this week in Chicago O’Hare airport. United has stated that further lounges will open in Houston, Los Angeles, New York Newark, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita.
As United has only very recently opened a new lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 2, we don’t expect any major changes to its lounge.
b) A new business class cabin which replace United Airlines GlobalBusiness and Global First cabins on selected aircraft.
The new business class cabin features all forward facing seats which convert into fully flat beds with direct access to the aisle. The new cabin is not yet in operation. The first aircraft to feature the new cabin is a Boeing 777-300 which United will take delivery of this month and it will enter service in 2017.
The cabin will also be fitted to new Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. It will also be retrofitted to Boeing 767-300 and Boeing 777-200 aircraft. It will not be fitted to Boeing 787-8, 787-9, Boeing 747 nor Boeing 757 aircraft.
Once the refit is complete, United will have phased out First Class on international routes and will operate a two class configuration, economy and business on these routes.
Whilst the refit is carried out United’s existing GlobalBusiness and Global First cabins have been rebranded as United Polaris business and United Polaris first respectively.
c) A redesigned in flight service with improvements to in flight dining, bedding and amenities.
These have launched this week and should now be available on all flights to London Heathrow, regardless of the aircraft used.
Which United Airlines routes to London Heathrow are likely to feature the new “Polaris” business class seat?
United currently flies from London Heathrow Terminal to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington Dulles, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
United has not given any timescale for the retrofit, nor indicated which routes are likely to operate with the new cabin. Therefore, we have no firm information on when the new Polaris cabin will come to London Heathrow.
However, we can make some educated guesses:
United flights between London Heathrow and New York Newark are currently operated with a mixture of Boeing 767-300 and Boeing 757-200 aircraft. United will not retrofit Boeing 757-200 aircraft so these flights will not be upgraded to the new Polaris cabin. This is of course subject to changes to due aircraft retirements and fleet changes and we would expect United to put its best feet forward on a route as competitive as London to New York.
United flights between London Heathrow and Washington Dulles are currently operated with a mixture of Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 757-200 aircraft and again Boeing 757-200 flights will not be upgraded to the new Polaris cabin. This is of course subject to changes to due aircraft retirements and fleet changes.
United flights between London Heathrow and Chicago O’Hare are currently operated with Boeing 767-300 and therefore should be upgraded to the new Polaris cabin.
United flights between London Heathrow and Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles are currently operated with Boeing 777-200 and therefore should be upgraded to the new Polaris cabin.
(Note these are based on current timetables and may change due to capacity changes due to market/seasonal demand, aircraft retirements and other fleet changes).
On a related note, the introduction of Polaris does give United something of a boost to the competitive transatlantic market from London Heathrow, particularly in light of the fact that it does not have a local partner in London as both American Airlines and Delta do in the form of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Update December 2017:
As at December 2017, the United Polaris business class cabin has been fitted to 14 of 18 Boeing 777-300 planned aircraft deliveries. It has also been retrofitted to 3 of 14 Boeing 767-300 aircraft. United say this will be completed in 2018. No Boeing 777-200 aircraft have been retrofitted yet. United say this will begin in 2018.