United Boeing 777-300ER to fly San Francisco-Hong Kong from March

By David Flynn, December 10 2016
United Boeing 777-300ER to fly San Francisco-Hong Kong from March

United Airlines will begin flights of its new Boeing 777-300ER – with the Polaris business class seats – between San Francisco and Hong Kong from March 25, 2017, replacing an ageing Boeing 747 on the route.

It's the first international route for the factory-fresh birds, and will follow almost three months of domestic US runs between Newark and San Francisco from February 16 to May 4.

United has 14 Boeing 777-300ERs on order and expects them all to be flying before the end of 2017 as the Star Alliance member moves to simultaneously roll out its Polaris product and wind back its Boeing 747 jumbo jet fleet.

Fully-flat beds, large video screens, direct aisle access from every seat, upmarket meals and bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue are all part of the Polaris package, with 60 business class seats in the Boeing 777-300ER (along with 102 seats in Economy Plus and 204 in economy).

Read more: United Airlines launches new 'Polaris' business class seat

San Francisco and Hong Kong are both in line to see new Polaris business class lounges in 2017, with San Fran sporting a flagship  split-level design which will take over the space currently used by the Singapore Airlines and EVA Air lounges.

Each Polaris lounge will feature a tended bar
Each Polaris lounge will feature a tended bar

Those lounges will be restricted to business class travellers (and first class, at least until United rips out all first class seats from its aircraft), with all Mileage Plus card-holders and Star Alliance Gold equivalents directed to the less salubrious United Club lounges.

Read more: 10 things you'll love about United's new Polaris airport lounges


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.

Moves by UA has got me thinking long and hard about the future and shape of loyalty. What is the airline business idea of loyalty.

First up, let me share my idea of loyalty.

  • I'm not loyal to a particular airline - I am loyal to an alliance. Put very simply, no one airline can get me to all the destinations I need to go to. I try very hard to fly on my preferred alliance even if it is less convenient.

  • I am willing and have paid a premium on many occasions to fly with the airline/s of my preferred alliance. I do this because I know I will be treated well on the ground, and in some cases in the air, even when flying Economy. To me that is the reward for loyalty. 

Which, brings me back to United and it's apeing of Singapore Airlines. What sort of loyalty model do these airlines believe in? 

Yes, if I fly Business class 100% of the time with UA or SQ, I would be chuffed that they've chosen to make their Business class product very exclusive. But what if I'm forced to fly Economy?
  • Is my loyalty to them on that Economy class journey somehow worth less? 

  • Or is UA or SQ trying to define loyalty by separating it from creature comforts and recognition?

  • I don't understand how SQ and UA reward loyalty in a competitive global environment, where loyalty has been defined by so many others more generously and with less segregation.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 382

You still get access to a lounge. This seems like a very big rant just because you don't get access to their top lounge.

I shudder to think what a rant is to you, if you believe an articulated explanation is a rant.

I fear you too have missed the point, that being that the competition has chosen to make available the best lounges to their most loyal members, where loyalty is defined in more traditional terms.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 382

By that logic, you should rant about not having access to CL when flying Qantas

Fair point, to an extent.

Are you suggesting however that Polaris and SIN Silver Kris lounges = QF CL = BA Concorde Room?

If that is your logic then one can naturally conclude that SIN Krisflyer Gold Lounge/United Club needs to be on par with QF First Lounge, QF Domestic Business Lounge and Galleries First Lounge.

Do you think SIN Krisflyer Gold and United Club are in fact on par with theses?

If they are not on par, does that not throw your logic?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2014

Total posts 123

Of course your loyalty is worth less flying economy. A few thousand less. 

But the competition does not subscribe to that belief. Do they expect the competition to move in that direction too?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 88

The UA model is just a different model. It has advantages for some and disadvantages for others so it will attract or repel customers depending on their situation

I agree. I guess I'm curious as to the demand under this model given the more traditional model adopted by competitors.

We know SQ is in a unique situation being market leader for longest time, although one wonders if they remain so in light of ME3, but that's a separate discussion.

What is UA's strategy aping this model? If they feel they're able to do this in their current state, are they seeing a change in the competition landscape with respect to frequent flyer models?

We don't necessarily bat an eye lid when SQ or QR (annoyed but not surprised) does this. But UA? That's something else...

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