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 seat offers a fully flat 6′ 6″ bed. In common with many other long-haul airlines, all seats will have direct access to the aisle in a 1-2-1 configuration. However, United will maintain the same seating density by combining inline and angled seats in the cabin.
All seats are forward-facing and each customer’s seat will feature a “Do Not Disturb” sign, mood lighting, one-touch lumbar support, storage areas, multiple surfaces for simultaneous working and dining, and a 16″ high-definition entertainment screen.
United Airlines also promises significant improvements to in-flight amenities and dining. The Polaris cabin will also feature a walk-up bar for in flight snacks.
The Polaris business class seat will be first installed in December 2016 on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and subsequently on 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 (which currently operate on a number of London Heathrow flights). United is yet to specify which London Heathrow routes will operate with the Polaris cabin.
United Airlines is also rolling out nine Polaris business class lounges worldwide. These lounges will feature daybeds and pre-flight dining. A Polaris lounge will be fitted out at London Heathrow Terminal 2 in 2017.
Other locations will include Chicago O’Hare airport, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita and Hong Kong.
This latest development does mean that all-aisle access business class seating is now becoming standard on most long-haul transatlantic airlines. The one exception being British Airways which seems intent on maintaining its primarily 8-across “yin-yang” seating in its Club World business class cabin.
In a further sign of US airlines continuing to narrow the historical gap in service levels between their European rivals, United Airlines is to provide complimentary beer and wine in economy class on long-haul flights to and from London Heathrow from 1 June 2015.
This is part of a package of service improvements announced by United Airlines. The airline will continue to charge for spirits in economy. Passengers will also have the option to purchase additional snacks in flight.
This move does, if we’re not mistaken, put United Airlines broadly on a par with Delta and American Airlines. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer a full bar service free of charge in economy.
Whilst in the grand scheme of things, this is a very modest change and, in truth, only a reversal of a previous cut, it’s perhaps less likely other airlines will start charging for alcoholic drinks in economy.
United Airlines flies from London Heathrow Terminal 2 to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington Dulles, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.