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To Polaris or Not to Polaris – Where Will We See United’s New ‘Groundbreaking’ Premium Product?

Some say yes, some say no while others ask why?

UA2

While we’ve been revealed the details of the new Polaris product and seat, United has been oddly coy about what fleets will be getting the new product – a product that, as a massive upgrade on their current offering, is an intriguing question for UA and Star elites. The other oddity is the installment schedule – whilst we know that the product will be rolled out come December, we haven’t a clue on what route or aircraft.

Here’s what we do know:

  • The new 77W fleet will come from the factory with Polaris (and remember, 3-4-3 in coach!) – these guys will likely be the first to debut the new product. SFO, ORD based.
  • The current pmUA 777 fleet (with the nasty 2-4-2 layout) will be next up for refurbishments. SFO, LAX, ORD, DEN based.
  • The 787 fleet, currently with the pmCO product, will get the product, at some point. In the future. Maybe? These are primarily the West Coast birds that do the long hops to China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and the UA1 service to Singapore.

Here are the mysteries:

  • At what point do the pmCO 777s get Polaris? Surely they’ll get it, right? These are EWR and IAH based planes.
  • What of the pmUA fleet of international 763s? They are based out of ORD and EWR primarily, with some island configs flying around from HNL. None of the Hawaii fleet get Polaris, but how about the birds crossing the Atlantic from Chicago and New York?
  • …and how about the bastard child of the company, the 764 fleet?
  • Polaris isn’t just a new seat – its a new customer service experience (as UA is marketing it) and requires comprehensive service re-training for existing crew. So, who gets to do it? ex-UA or ex-CO crews – what do their union contracts allow for? What’s the schedule for training given the schedule for introduction of the hard product into the fleet? What are the pay consequences given the new more labor intensive service? Given that UA and CO crew STILL can’t roster for flights together, this might become a topic of some significance.
  • Does PS get Polaris too? UA’s PS product, once industry leading and a game changer when it was first introduced, has fallen by the wayside and lagging behind AA’s new A321T Flagship product and even jetBlue’s Mint – it’s probably on par with DeltaOne but is much more inconsistent given that UA varies between pmUA 777s with the old Global First product and pmCO 757s on their LAX-EWR PS runs.

Way too many questions, way too few answers.

While there was initial excitement when Polaris was announced – sorely needed upgrade on what is currently a woeful and noncompetitive Business product from UA – doubts are starting to be cast on the actual execution of the ambitious project if the airline’s communications thus far are anything to go by.

united polaris

Image Credit: United

If people pay the premium but don’t know if they are going to end up in Polaris, or a pmUA 2-4-2 configuration with rear facing seats or a pmCO 2-2-2 with no direct window-aisle access, why even bother book in the first place and face a lottery in what product you actually get?

 

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