More than two years have passed since United announced its new “Polaris” long-haul business class. The new brand, encompassing new in-flight service routines, a new seat and lounges officially launched on 1 December 2016.
It was done with the best of intentions to radically upgrade United’s position in the long-haul business class market. In truth, it has in part been a case study in how not to manage expectations.
The new service routines have been long been in place and United is rolling out new lounges in the US to much acclaim. New Polaris lounges are open in Chicago O’Hare, Newark, San Francisco and Houston. Los Angeles will follow shortly.
United was due to open a new Polaris lounge at London Heathrow but no date has been set yet. Given that its existing lounge is relatively new, not much was expected in terms of changes in any event.
The retrofitting of the Polaris cabin to aircraft is taking some time. When flying United from London Heathrow it is more likely than not you will be flying on an aircraft not fitted with the new cabin. Though you have a good chance flying it to Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco and Washington Dulles.
The Polaris Cabin
The plan is to fit the new Polaris business class cabin to 18 new Boeing 777-300 (of which all but one have been delivered) and future deliveries of 14 Boeing 787-10 aircraft.
Only one flight United flight from London Heathrow, to San Francisco (UA949/UA901) is operated with the Boeing 777-300.
It will also be retrofitted to 35 Boeing 767-300 and 55 Boeing 777-200 aircraft. It will not be retrofitted to Boeing 757, Boeing 767-400, Boeing 787-8 nor Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Progress of Retrofit
As at Thursday 20 September 2018, 5 out of 55 Boeing 777-200 aircraft have been retrofitted and 3 of the remaining 50 aircraft are currently in progress.
These retrofitted aircraft registrations N204UA, N223UA, N786UA, N788UA and N796UA. If you are flying on a retrofitted aircraft you will see Version 5 of the United 777-200 seat map.
These aircraft have been operating selected flights between London Heathrow and San Francisco and Washington.
11 out of 35 Boeing 767-300 aircraft have been retrofitted and 2 of the remaining 24 aircraft are currently in progress.
The retrofitted aircraft are N642UA, N643UA, N644UA, N646UA, N647UA, N648UA, N649UA, N651UA, N655UA, N656UA and N659UA. If you are flying on a retrofitted aircraft you will see Version 3 of the Boeing 767-300 seat map.
These aircraft have been operating selected flights between London Heathrow and Chicago O’Hare.
This is according to the United website and the independent United Fleet website. There are some slight inconsistencies between the two, most likely due to timeliness of website updates.
In terms of progress by routes, here is a guide to which types of aircraft operate on United’s routes from London Heathrow which will at least give an indication of the chances of experiencing the new Polaris cabin.
The information below is based on historical information and may be subject to change due to day-to-day operational requirements and seasonal changes.
(On an entirely tangental point, United’s flight number sequencing appears to be all over the place.)
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