United begins Polaris business class upgrade for Boeing 787s

United Airlines' original Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 jets are now being retrofitted with the new Polaris business class seat.

By David Flynn , October 24 2019
United begins Polaris business class upgrade for Boeing 787s

United Airlines has begun installing its Polaris business class onto the airline's fleet of Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners, with the first of the twelve original 787-8 jets now going under the knife and a 787-9 lining up behind it.

The rolling retrofit will swap the Dreamliners' original 2-2-2 business class seats for the privacy, direct aisle access and superior design and comfort of the Polaris seats.

"The -8 and -9 fleets will be reconfigured concurrently," United AIrlines spokesman Koji Nagata tells Executive Traveller, although "the -8 fleet will be completed first. We expect to have all 787s reconfigured with the new Polaris cabin by Q1, 2021."

The Polaris design is a quantum leap from United's current Boeing 787 business class.
The Polaris design is a quantum leap from United's current Boeing 787 business class.

Nagata adds that "some reconfigurations will be accomplished during regularly scheduled checks, and others will be done during a standalone visit."

According to seatmaps sighted by Executive Traveller, the Polaris'd Boeing 787-8s will see the business class cabin shrink from 36 seats to 28, along with the addition of a 21-seat premium economy cabin of United's Premium Plus seats.

The Boeing 787 Polaris upgrade also adds United's latest premium economy seats.
The Boeing 787 Polaris upgrade also adds United's latest premium economy seats.

The larger Boeing 787-9 keeps its current count of 48 business class seats in Polaris-mode, followed again by 21 Premium Plus seats.

United has given no indications of which routes will be first to see the upgraded Dreamliners. According to Nagata, "The Polaris configured aircrafts will not be allocated to a specific route, however it will rotate throughout the network until all conversions are complete."

United's Boeing 787-8s will see a reduction in the size of their business class cabin.
United's Boeing 787-8s will see a reduction in the size of their business class cabin.

The Sydney-San Francisco route will get a taste of the Polaris experience from December 2019 to March 2020, when the peak summer schedule will see United switch this popular trans-Pacific route from a Boeing 787-9 to a Boeing 777-300ER.

Read more: United Airlines is bringing Polaris business class to Sydney

The biggest brother of the Dreamliner family – the factory-fresh Boeing 787-10 – arrives into United's hangars with the Polaris seats already installed, as will 13 additional Boeing 787-9s slated for arrival from 2020.

The 787-10s already feature on flagship domestic routes from New York/Newark to Los Angeles and San Francisco, delivering what is arguably the best experience for the business travellers making the six hour cross-country trek.

Selected domestic coast-to-coast flights feature Polaris business class on the Boeing 787-10.
Selected domestic coast-to-coast flights feature Polaris business class on the Boeing 787-10.

In September this year, United switched over all five of its daily flights between New York and London to Polaris-grade Boeing 767-300ER jets fitted with an expanded 46-seat business class cabin, up from 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,” explains 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."

United is also switching to all-Polaris flights from Chicago to London.
United is also switching to all-Polaris flights from Chicago to London.

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."

United will upgrade its Chicago-Heathrow flights to the same 46 Polaris-seat Boeing 767-300ERs from November 15, 2019.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 116

About time!!!! Love Polaris 777300ER I did Polaris 787-10 twice this september transcon US and its good but on the 787-10 seats are much narrower than 777300ER and getting into/outof the seats into the aisle is a very tight squeeze- hence the grab handle in front of you -these grabhandles can also be seen on qantas C on 789 - i though they were an IPAD holder and ruined an IPAD cover on a flight from SYD-HKG

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 116

Forgot to addd- on an LAX-EWR flight on 787-10 upgrade to Polaris didnt clear so Premium Plus aka UA Permium Economy is free for UA 1Ks to book - did aisle seat in 2-3-2 config in a 2 seat Not bad!

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 46

Great news. Looking forward to experiencing the new seat and keen to see the seat maps. Current J class seat is fine, but aisle access really is the expectation/norm these days. Having said that, I always book one in the middle 2 anyway so it's not an issue.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 56

Just flew back this morning in the current 2-2-2 Polaris seat. Was better than I remember but very much looking forward to the new seat. Might be worth ET doing an article on the new Milage Plus Qualifications required from 2021. My seat mate in American based in SFO was rather scathing and even with his heavy flying and 150K miles won't reach 1K due to the new requirements with cash spend which is now worldwide not just US starting 2021.

Hi melbtraveller, these changes have been extensively covered elsewhere, so there's little to say that hasn't already been said.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 46

The changes are good I reckon. UA will be awarding spend and frequency (number of flights). These are the best measures of loyalty. If your seat mate won't reach 1K, he's probably flying a long way, but not all that frequently.


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