United trials new Polaris business class on New York-Paris flight

By David Flynn, September 20 2016
United trials new Polaris business class on New York-Paris flight

With barely 12 weeks to go until United Airlines launches its all-new Polaris business class in December, the Star Alliance member has rolled out the refreshed meals and drinks service on an exclusive test flight between New York (well, the adjacent Newark NJ airport) and Paris.

The special charter flight was an invitation-only affair for selected United employees who were encouraged to share the experience on social media, providing a preview of what Polaris customers will eat and drink above the clouds.

(As the first Polaris business class seats will debut on a factory-fresh Boeing 777-300ER to be delivered in early December, the Polaris 'food flight' took place on an older United Boeing 767-400ER running the airline's current business class.)

A hallmark feature of Polaris looks set to be the 'Bloody Mary cart', snapped by United's executive for 'Food and Beverage Planning and Design'.

The drinks trolley will serve up its namesake, along with Mimosas, as a pre-departure tipple on morning flights.

Polaris travellers will also enjoy champagne and chocolates, although we'll need to wait until the public launch in December to see if the Moet served during this test flight is what paying passengers will get.

The three-course Polaris meal service will embrace seasonal menus with regional touches for each route.

Here's the appetiser and salad...

... with the mains following...

As is always the case, they don't plate up quite as well as in the fancy food-styled PR photos. 

A tiered dessert tray finished the inflight feed.

United says that its signature scooped-at-your-seat ice cream sundaes will remain on the menu, while daytime flights longer than eight hours and all flights longer than 12 hours will see hot mid-flight snacks such as lobster macaroni and cheese.

And speaking of cheese – the Polaris cheese plate, accompanied by the new Polaris 'polar bear'.

The bear also topped out the bedding set, supplied by Saks Fifth Avenue.

The complete suite of Polaris 'soft product' – which means everything but the new seat itself – will appear at the pointy end of United's international flights from December 1, as United rebrands its business class experience under the Polaris banner.

The actual Polaris seats will follow on United's new Boeing 777-300ER fleet and then flow onto the rest of its international fleet, from new Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 jets to refits of the Boeing 767, 777-200 and Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners.

United's unique Polaris design, which interleaves rows of angled and straight-ahead seats, allows the airline to retain a relatively high headcount in business class while offering all passengers direct aisle access in what's effectively a 1-2-1 layout.

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

Chicago to get first Polaris lounge 

December 1 also marks the opening of the first Polaris Lounge at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, which will sport a dining area with a buffet selection and a la carte meals...

... alongside a tended bar...

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

... plus bespoke 'work suites' with bag storage, a pull-out table with integrated tablet holder and AC/USB charging points...

... and even semi-private relaxation nooks with daybeds and soft lighting.

More of the upmarket Polaris lounges will follow at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London throughout 2017.

Those lounges will take the place of the airline's Global First first class lounges and be restricted to business class travellers, with top-tier MileagePlus and Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers travelling in economy having to make do with the more mainstream United Clubs.

Read more: United Airlines says Polaris lounges will be 'business class only'


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.

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