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When will United Polaris Business Class really be available?

by on Mon February 20, 2017 • 87 Comments


United’s new Business Class, Polaris, is being aggressively marketed by United.

It’s a big step up from the current United BusinessFirst product, offering features like:

  • Direct access to the aisle from every seat
  • Privacy dividers
  • Mattress pads and customized pillow selections from Saks Fifth Avenue (a limited number of mattress pads and custom pillows will be boarded on each flight, first come, first serve)
  • Brand new, upgraded meal concepts
  • 3 course wine flights on night time flights
  • A bloody mary cart on daytime flights
  • A dedicated airport lounge featuring daybeds and full tableside meal service

That’s going to make United a more attractive option for award travel and more.

When will Polaris seats be available?

Polaris is advertised as coming on December 1, 2016. But that’s just the date United rolled out the upgraded food, wine, and pillows / blankets.

United has over 100 planes that serve these international routes, and that’s too little time to install brand new seats on all those aircraft.

The first planes with the new Polaris seat are the 777-300, which are brand new planes being put in service during 2017.

Here’s when 777-300 planes will go into service:

  • March 25: San Francisco to Hong Kong will be the first route to get it full time – starting March 25, 2017, with the 777-300 replacing 747 aircraft.
  • May 5: Newark to Tel Aviv (flight 90 / 91).
  • Over a dozen more 777-300s will arrive during 2017, and more routes will be confirmed shortly
  • United will also run domestic test runs from San Francisco to Newark from February 16 to May 4 (6 days a week – mornings from Newark to San Francisco, and afternoons from San Francisco to Newark – it won’t operate from San Francisco on Tuesdays, and from Newark on Wednesdays).

As for United’s other international aircraft…

  • 777-200: These start conversion in late 2017 (many of these are legacy United Airlines aircraft with a Global First cabin, and United has financial and cost motivation to reconfigure these into the Polaris layout). Seats will be in a 1-2-1 layout.
  • 767-300: About a dozen of these aircraft are still in the pre-merger 3 cabin layout with Global First, Business, and Economy. These are on deck to receive Polaris conversions starting April 2017 with 30 seats in a unique 1-1-1 setup. There are no plans we know of for the remaining aircraft which are currently in a standard 2 cabin layout.
  • 787-8/9/10: The 787-8/9 aircraft will be retrofitted as they go through heavy maintenance checks, with the first going through during 2018. The brand new 787-10, which will arrive in a few years, will have Polaris. They will have a 1-2-1 layout, though the seats will be longer than those on the 777s.
  • 757: No word on these, but don’t expect Polaris style seats. American and Delta don’t have direct aisle access seating on their comparable 757s, and most of these planes are now spending their time on P.S. routes between Newark and California. Many will be retired beginning in 2018.
  • 747: These will be retired in late 2017 with no Polaris seat reconfiguration
  • A350: Brand new planes which will have Polaris seating.

The 777-200s are the biggest part of the international fleet, at about 50 aircraft, followed by the various versions of the 787.

Based on this, over half of United’s fleet could be in full Polaris mode within about 2 years. And the 777-300 will be a ‘guaranteed’ Polaris ride shortly, most likely on routes from Newark to Asia and India and San Francisco to Asia.


What about lounges?

There is now a full featured Polaris lounge ready for passengers at Chicago O’Hare in the C Concourse, next to the existing United Club.

Other Polaris lounges are coming to the Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Dulles, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo airports. Here’s what we’ve seen so far on the timing of lounge openings:

  • San Francisco: mid-2017 partial opening, followed by a full opening in late 2017. The Polaris lounge will take over the existing United Club space in the international terminal, plus add a lower level where the Singapore KrisFlyer lounge is currently located. The existing First Class lounge will convert to a United Club, while another United Club will be built across the hallway.
  • Los Angeles: late 2017 opening in the former International First Class lounge space.
  • Newark: mid-2017 Phase 1 opening, 2018 Phase 2 opening. The Polaris lounge will eventually take over the current large United Club near the terminal C security checkpoint. A new United Club will open in the C concourse later.
  • Houston: mid-2017 on the upper level of the current United Club in terminal E.
  • Washington-Dulles: 2018 opening.

The remaining clubs in London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo will be ready by the end of 2018.

What amenities / food / beverage will the lounges have?

The lounges will offer…

  • A buffet with light cold and warm food options
  • Sit down table service with comfort food like shrimp and grits or fried chicken, depending on the local chef partnering with the lounge
  • Premium wines like The Prisoner and Daou Cabernet Sauvignon and Veuve Champagne
  • Premium spirits like WhistlePig Rye Whiskey
  • Nap areas that can be booked for one hour at a time
  • Several showers with clothes pressing while you shower
  • A washer / dryer for quick laundry
  • At your seat beverage service
  • A concierge who can assist with restaurant recommendations and travel issues

If you love wine and good spirits, you’re going to love what’s on tap at the Polaris lounges.

Here’s a sample wine menu.

And here’s a sample spirits menu.

Wines include premium selections like The Prisoner and Moet & Chandon Rose, while spirits include Auchentoshan 12 year scotch, Hangar 1 vodka, Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon, and WhistlePig rye.

Who can get in the Polaris lounge?

Only same day Polaris passengers (either connecting to/from a different airport, or arriving/departing the same airport as the lounge), and passengers in Business or First Class on long haul international Star Alliance flights (only if the long haul flight is departing the same airport as the lounge – no arrival privileges) can access the lounges.

  • Star Alliance Gold members, and even Global Services members traveling in Economy Class won’t get in.
  • Domestic Business or First Class, including P.S. flights, and flights to Hawaii won’t get in.
  • Shorter non-Polaris international flights in Business Class like Houston to Lima won’t get in either, even though they have lie flat seats, as they’re labeled as ‘United Business’ instead of ‘Polaris.’

What about P.S. flights?

These will not be marketed as Polaris flights, so you won’t get Polaris lounge access while flying Business Class on a ticket that only involves domestic P.S. flights. These flights will get Polaris pillows and blankets, but other major changes aren’t planned yet.

United awards in Polaris class are (for now) still the same price as regular Business Class awards, so you can fly Polaris for just 57,500 miles one way from the U.S. to Europe for example, making them a great use of United miles, or Chase Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to United miles.

Where will pajamas be available?

United is offering every Polaris passenger pajamas on routes where the flight time averages 12 hours over the course of a year. Here are the routes that will get pajamas:

San Francisco to/from…

  • Seoul
  • Shanghai
  • Beijing
  • Hangzhou
  • Xi’an
  • Taipei
  • Auckland
  • Hong Kong
  • Chengdu
  • Sydney
  • Tel Aviv
  • Singapore

Newark to/from

  • Tokyo
  • Beijing
  • Delhi
  • Mumbai
  • Hong Kong
  • Shanghai

Chicago to/from

  • Tokyo
  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Hong Kong

Los Angeles to/from

  • Shanghai
  • Sydney
  • Melbourne

Washington-Dulles to/from

  • Tokyo
  • Beijing

Houston to/from

  • Tokyo

Notable routes that won’t get pajamas because they don’t cross the threshold include Newark – Tel Aviv, Newark – Sao Paolo, Houston – Buenos Aires, Denver –  Tokyo, Los Angeles – Tokyo, and San Francisco – Tokyo.

What kind of wine will be served?

6 kinds of wine will be offered on each flight – 3 white and 3 red. Within each group of 3, there will 2 be to traditional ‘favorite’ varieties like Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, and one ’emerging’ variety like Grenache – Syrah.

Sample wines that may appear onboard include…

  • Taft Street Chardonnay
  • Sebastian Riffault Sancerre
  • Mastroberadino Mastro Greco
  • Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dobbes “Wines by Joe” Pinot Noir
  • Hahn GSM Grenache Syrah

What kind of food will be served?

Food will look familiar, with a small appetizer and salad to start, followed by a choice of 4 to 5 main courses, and a choice of cheese, ice cream sundae, or pastries for dessert. You’ll also get a truffle with champagne before taking off.

Mid flight snacks will offer the usual cold snacks on shorter flights, and on longer 10 hour+ flights one or two hot options will be offered like lobster mac and cheese or tomato soup with grilled cheese.

Here is a sample menu.

The big change will be the number of choices in rotation, so you’re less likely to be stuck with the same meal on different routes.

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87 thoughts on When will United Polaris Business Class really be available?

  1. Ramona

    Hi There.. I was looking at flying Sydney to LA in sept 2017. Plane is 787-9 Dreamliner. Will this have the new Polaris business class seats?

  2. pete

    Just flew halfway around the world on four planes all in Polaris First or Business – never say anything Polaris other than a blanket, food and very cheap plastic glasses. Not exactly impressive and not worth waiting for.

  3. Deborah Pecore

    Looking to book an award ticket from Hnl to Sdf. This means stopping at one of several terminals along the way. (Oct 4). Are any of the flights going to have Polaris First or Business seating and amenities?

  4. Nicole

    I am flying from Chicago (ORD) to Beijing (PEK) on February 14, 2017 on Boeing 777-200 on United Polaris Business. Do you think I will have a plane with the new seats?

  5. Amy A

    Any idea on when the 767 Chicago to London will receive the new seats? I know Chicago has the new lounge already. We are flying out in May but I am assuming it will still have the old seating.

  6. Margaret

    Hi! I am flying from Newark to Rome on July 26,2017. Right now it says we are on a 767-400….1) will there be the updated seats? 2) will the lounge be open yet?


      @Margaret – No updated seats yet for that one. There *might* be a ‘phase 1’ of a Polaris lounge open around mid year in Newark, but wouldn’t count on much at that point.


      @ron – Unfortunately still silent on that front, but by the end of the year routes like EWR-DEL/BOM/HKG and SFO-SYD may have them.

  7. Lisa Bryan

    Hi! Taking a flight from EWR to TLV on April 9th. It says it’s a 777-200 with United Polaris Business seats. Will the upgraded seating be in place by then? Thanks!

  8. Victor in Houston

    We are flying from Houston to Barcelona (April 20, 2017) BusinessFirst, reservation states Business Polaris 1) will the Polaris Lounge be open in Houston by April? 2) We are fyling 777-200 will the seats be updated by then? Thanks this is a great forum!

  9. LaDonna

    I know its a short route but will business class Houston to Cancun on a Boeing 737-900 change at all? Service, amenities, etc.? Thanks for any information!


      @LaDonna – Unfortunately nothing to report there. You’ll get free alcohol, not so great wine, and sometimes a sandwich / salad. For such a short flight it’s nothing to get excited about.

  10. Ben

    We just booked Polaris flights SFO-ACK for end of November-beginning of December 2017.

    It’s showing 777-200, but from what I read here it may or may not have the upgraded seats.

    Is that correct? How do you find out?

    1. colleen ritt

      well they are no longer flying that route as I just found out so you better check for different options. I was very sad when my October flight was cancelled

  11. Robert

    Great article. The best I found. I know 777-300ER (77W) will not have Polaris First. Is there are any aircraft will have First Class Polaris layout? Or First Class will all be retired?


      @Robert – No new First Class Polaris seats – they’re phasing it out as Polaris is installed. Though the current First Class seats are already direct aisle access and roomier than the new Polaris business seats.

      1. Robert

        So no new Polaris first seats. But will the Global First (which now been called Polaris Global First) seats be kept or all First seats be retired as Polaris business seat are installed?


          @Robert – When Polaris Business seats are installed on an aircraft, Global First Class will be removed.

  12. Ethel Chiang

    I am flying from from central Illinois through Chicago to San Francisco and will fly Polaris Business class from SFO to Auckland, NZ. SFO does not have a Polaris Lounge yet, so could I use the Polaris lounge (only one thus far) in Chicago before connecting to SFO?

    Additionally, when I return, again I will be flying Polaris business from AKL to SFO, then from SFO to ORD. Could I use the lounge on the return leg of the journey?

    I am traveling on 2 tickets: round trip SPI – SFO through ORD, then round trip SFO – AKL. All flights on United AIrlines, booked through United.

    I called the United office and was told that I could only access the Polaris lounge if departing internationally from Chicago, and not if I am traveling to another city for the international leg.
    This seems to me unfair as I am not able to fully enjoy the perks associated with the price of a Polaris Business class ticket.



      @Ethel – The United site says:

      “Customers in United Polaris business class may access a United Polaris lounge at connecting airports and their final destination within 24 hours of arrival or departure of their flight.”

      Where it may gum up is the fact you have two separate tickets, so when they scan it they won’t see your SFO-AKL. But if you have that SFO-AKL/AKL-SFO boarding pass they might let you in – again though it’s more clear cut if the Polaris segment is on the same ticket as the domestic portion. You’re officially flying a domestic ticket SPI-ORD-SFO, rather than at ticket SPI-ORD-SFO-AKL.

  13. KL

    So I booked a round trip Business class fare this month from Pittsburgh to Tokyo through O’hare in both directions in anticipation of visiting the Polaris lounge. I booked through United with a United flight number but they put me on the carrier ANA as this is who they use between O’hare and Haneda. Upon return through Chicago after a 12 hour flight I approached the Polaris lounge in need of a shower as my layover was 4 hours for my flight back to Pittsburgh. I was denied entrance as they said ANA does not count. I booked this flight specifically to access the Polaris lounge and feel ripped off. ANA is a Star Alliance member and I booked through United so I don’t understand? The rules seem really unclear and subjective on who gets in. I am not sure how to take advantage of this product moving forward. It seems unattainable.


      @KL – Sorry to hear about that. Unfortunately looking at the rules posted on the United site, the agents are correct. “Customers may only access a United Polaris lounge at the departure airport for their international business class flight.”

      But it really makes no sense especially given United earns $$ for that ANA flight because they are in a special joint venture arrangement that shares revenue beyond just being partners. Looks like they applied a blanket policy to all partner flights which is unfortunate.

      They’ve lost you for future bookings but you may want to write in and voice your concern – maybe they’ll send some compensation your way.

  14. Tim

    We’re flying the SYD to SFO, which is listed as Polaris Business,with a connecting business flight to EWRMar 2017. Will we have acces to the Polaris lounge in SFO during our layover?


      @Tim – You will if it’s open then, but looks like that Polaris lounge isn’t coming online until mid year or so.

  15. Li Di

    I’m planning my kids’ travel clothes. Photo of pajama shows top and slippers only. Do you know if they’ll provide pajama bottom as well? Thanks.

  16. Bev

    I’m wondering what you mean by “pajamas by request” on 12+ hour Polaris flights. Do you need to ask in advance? It would be awkward to start a trip without anything to sleep in, expecting to acquire pjs on the flight, and not get them.

  17. Chris

    Hello. Booked Polaris First on 777-200 IAD-MUC traveling May 1, 17, return Polaris First BRU-IAD on 777-200 traveling 5/28/17. Seat map shows Polaris setup. Do you think planes will be configured by then? Thanks for info.

  18. Mike

    What will happen to the regular United clubs in EWR? Will there be just one? I am concerned about the potential overcrowding.


      @Mike – At least in Chicago the Polaris Club took over just part of the former United Club, and the remaining portion is being renovated to reopen as a United Club.

      Not a lot of space at Newark but word is they have some space next to the big United Club to expand, leaving room for both Polaris and a smaller United Club.

      All long haul biz class passengers will go to Polaris, so lots of folks will no longer hang out in the United Club.


          @Stuart – It is – though don’t expect new seats anytime soon on that route. As for the lounge, a first phase lounge at EWR is supposed to come sometime mid year or so.

  19. Mark

    I’ll be flying United flights 14 and 15 business class between Honolulu and Newark in October 2017. Will Polaris service/seats be available on those flights?

    1. Pecore

      Mark, I just read your question posted on 12-10 on Mike about the Hnl to Newark flight. We too are flying Hnl to either Chicago, Newark or Houston in Oct 2017. I am very confused about the type business/first seating on United. Have you been able to get any info on that?
      Debbie from Ky


        @pepcore – You’ll get a lie flat seat on the Newark or Houston flights. Chicago might be lie flat, but might not. It won’t be the full Polaris seat. Instead it will be the seat they’ve been using for the last several years in international business class. Polaris seats won’t be used on flights to Hawaii.

  20. Nelson

    I’m flying from SFO to LHR on 1/3/17 on business Polaris. Does a window seat has direct aisle access or seat configuration is same as the previous business class?

  21. Bella

    I am flying from CLT to Rome this upcoming summer in 2017. Would that be considered a long-haul trip? And would I be eligiable to go on the United Polaris?


      @Bella – Yes that is considered Polaris for the portion to Rome. Whether it has the new seats is unlikely at this point, but it will have the better bedding and food changes, and if a Polaris lounge is open yet at the airport you can access. Newark might have one by then, Dulles unlikely, and Chicago is already open.

  22. DB

    i am flying direct to Rome from Newark in April, 2016. Will this be a true Polaris flight? Meaning will the plane be upgraded to reflect all of the amenities?

  23. Margaret

    My future hubby and I will be flying to Europe through Houston for our honeymoon and it’s a 777-200 it says Polaris business with a seat configuration of 2-2-2. This will be oct 17 by this time do you think the new lounge will be open as well as the new Polaris seats?


      @Margaret – The lounge should be open by mid year. As for the seat, it’s a crap shoot. You won’t know until 72 hours prior to departure, as United is defaulting all seat maps to the old layout in case of equipment swaps, since many planes still won’t have the new layout.

  24. Rick

    I am flying to SYD from LAX in April 2017 and they are advertising the seats as Polaris Business, but the plane is a 787-9 (Dreamliner), so should I anticipate the older configuration?


    If they are selling seats as Polaris (EWR-BOM) is that what I’ll really get? What’s the status on the lounges at EWR and BOM? (for 1/10/17 and 2/28/17)


      @Rebecca – There won’t be any Polaris lounge at EWR by the end of February. There is a slight chance your 2/28 flight gets changed to a 777-300 (77W) which would have the new seats. Those new planes are scheduled to enter international service around the end of February.

      Bombay is not slated to receive a Polaris lounge.

      What you will get are Polaris meals and pillows / blankets.


    If they are selling seats as Polaris (EWR-BOM) is that what I’ll really get? What’s the status on the lounges at EWR and BOM?

  27. Thom

    does anyone know if the soft upgrade includes mattress padding on planes that will not get new seats for a while or are those limited to new seats only?


      @Nick – Could be one of the first if they switch it to a 777-300ER aircraft, but even that might not be in earnest until mid year. The first planes are delivered in December, and don’t hit international service until early in 2017.

  28. Diane B.

    I’ll be flying SFO via O’Hare to Rome in mid-June 2017. It looks like the plane I’m flying on is a 777-200. What are my chances the plane will be retrofitted to Polaris? Will the Polaris lounge at least be available?


        @aya – The Chicago lounge will open in December, and planes will start to trickle in next year. The onboard food service will change in December.


      @Chuck – No word – they may have some 777-200s in service with the Polaris seats by then but not enough to plan on. The Polaris lounge in Newark definitely won’t be ready by then.

  29. John

    I am looking at booking a Global First on April on a 777-200 from Brussels to Chicago. Any word on what happens to passengers ticketed in Global First if their plane turns out to be a new Polaris setup?


      @John – It’s a low likelihood in April you’ll see your flight on 777-200 on a Polaris plane, but if you do, United generally will adjust the fare to a business class fare based on what was prevailing with similar restrictions at the time of booking. Worth a call to them though. If it’s based on miles, you’ll get the extra miles redeposited.

  30. Amanda Hansen

    Do you know if they upgraded food, bev, pillows, etc will rollout to 747 on 12/1? I understand these planes will be retired and the seat won’t be upgraded, but I have a Global First reso next summer and I’d love to know if I’ll get to experience some of these amenities. Thanks!


      @Amanda – Yes that is the plan – the ‘soft’ product (everything but the seat) is planned for rollout on all the fleet 12/1. And by next summer all those ‘soft’ elements will be in full swing.


      @Joe – Not yet. They’ll probably do some domestic test runs for a month or two, and then probably deployed on the longest routes out of Newark like EWR-HKG, DEL, BOM.


      @Jenny – Right now they’re operating a 777-200 on the route. If that holds, the 777-200s are slated to start getting the seats next year, but it could take a couple years to get all the 777-200s updated.

      And equipment can change at any time. It will be a few years at least before Polaris seats are consistently out there.


      @marie – Hard to say. Right now they’re using a 777-200 on that route, and those will start getting the new seats next year, but they have over 50 of those planes to get through. And if they change equipment to for example a 787…well those aren’t even scheduled to get the new seats yet so it will be hit or miss for a few years.

      But Houston is scheduled to get a full Polaris lounge late next year.


      @Debbie – The food and blankets will be upgraded December 1st. The seats…it’s not clear. That flight currently uses 787 aircraft, which don’t yet have a schedule for getting the new seats. So it could be a few years.


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