United Airlines is upgrading its New York-London route to feature Polaris business class seats on all five daily flights.
As of September 15, 2020, the premium trans-Atlantic corridor will feature five Boeing 767-300ER jets fitted with an expanded business class cabin of 46 Polaris seats compared to 30 in the Star Alliance member's standard Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.
“New York to London Heathrow is the largest premium market in the world,” says Patrick Quayle, United Airlines' Vice President International Planning. "We’ve now improved the product. We have lie-flats. The number of seats has exponentially improved,” he says. “What we’re trying to attract is the businesswoman and businessman."
This premium-heavy play not only increases capacity and makes United more competitive on the hotly-contested route, it also unlocks a greater chance of upgrades for frequent flyers.
"Our corporate travelers like to have the last-minute availability and have the ability to upgrade if they want to," Quayle explains. "This configuration allows that."
That configuration also adds 22 seats in United’s Premium Plus international premium economy cabin, which is far from the worst way to spend this seven-hour trip – especially if you're on a daytime flight.
Although business class travellers departing from United's hub at NY-adjacent Newark have access to one of the new Polaris lounges, a similar Polaris lounge at London's Heathrow Terminal 2 remains in the planning stage and is not expected to be opened until 2020.
"What we're trying to do is spend this year figuring out what is the right way to introduce the Polaris experience internationally," United's Vice-President of Marketing Mark Krolick told Executive Traveller earlier this year at the opening of the airline's new Polaris business class lounge at Los Angeles.
Krolick said the international United Clubs "already have a higher product spec (than our domestic lounges) and so the difference between Polaris and United Club internationally is not quite the same as it is here in the US."
"What we're looking at is the amenities that we're not already offering internationally today – pre-flight dining for example, that's something we want to try to find a way to introduce where it's appropriate in the markets that makes sense."
United plans to upgrade its Chicago-Heathrow flights to the same 46 Polaris-seat Boeing 767-300ERs by year's end.