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United has been promoting its new Polaris Business Class since December, but, to be fair, the soft product launch only included in-flight service and amenities.
Now, clients will have access to the new all-aisle-access, lie-flat seat on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft when they fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong.
Although the Polaris product is already flying domestic runs between Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), it will debut March 25 on transpacific flights (with the SFO to Hong Kong route being its first international route) — a major win for long-haul fliers that have normally dealt with too-small seats on many of United’s aircraft.
As United begins to retire its “queen of the skies” Boeing 747-400 aircraft, 14 new, Wi-Fi-equipped 777-300ERs will slowly replace them and begin to fly many of the airline’s long-haul flights, including Newark to Tel Aviv, a route that will debut later this year.
United is turning a new leaf with this premium offering, which comes with more bells and whistles than the business-class products from many other U.S. carriers.
Here’s what clients can expect from Polaris while onboard the long-haul flight.
On the GroundPart of United’s product overhaul includes a new Polaris Lounge concept dedicated for Polaris customers and the Star Alliance Gold premium cabin passengers of its partners.
The lounge includes access to a swanky bar, a full buffet, tableside service, lounging pods with chargers, shower suites and even napping rooms with ambient noise and aromatherapy spray for those who want to kick back between flights.
There are even storage lockers available, where frequent fliers can keep their favorite wine vintages or liquors for their next flight.
O’Hare International Airport in Chicago already has an operating Polaris Lounge, and others are expected to open soon.
Fasten Your SeatbeltsOnce onboard, clients will find a staggered seating arrangement, with some seats looking slightly toward the aisle and others angled away, creating excellent privacy (especially in the highly favored, odd-numbered window-facing seats).
Couples traveling together can sit in a two-seat section in the middle, which offers a privacy divider that can be lowered or raised at the touch of a button. However, clients should stay away from these if it’s a window view they’re seeking — I noticed that it was very difficult to see out of the plane from this center section.
Staying connected is another major focus of the new Polaris product. Fliers will have easy-access power outlets and USB ports, plus small cabinets with a makeup mirror and space to store items.
All the entertainment options are in place, including box sets of popular television programs and the latest Hollywood blockbusters on large-screen monitors at each seat. I was especially impressed by the 3-D interactive map display.
Up, Up and AwayOnce in flight, things get off to a great start thanks to a bloody mary and champagne cart that boasts all the accoutrements (available on morning flights). During my trial flight from Chicago to San Francisco, one of my favorite amenities was the option to do an in-flight wine tasting that allowed me to sample many of the labels from United’s growing wine cellar.
Saks Fifth Avenue bedding onboard features feathery duvets with two pillows and the option for a third cooling gel pillow, but I had to ask a flight attendant for it, as they are not placed at the seats. There’s also a mattress pad that softens the seat further.
Unlike other U.S. airlines, business class travelers can choose from five meal options in addition to a dine-on-demand service. Cabin crew swears by the lobster macaroni and cheese with tomato soup, but my Asian-fusion chicken soup with coconut was one of the best things I have ever tasted on a plane.
Clients can also personalize their meals, opting for pre-departure dining in the airport’s lounge or choosing an Express Dining option that eliminates multicourse meals.
In-flight buffet setups also give travelers the chance to snack and sip at any time, which is a nice benefit on flights crossing multiple time zones.
When travelers are ready to snooze, provided pajamas help lull them to sleep, but there’s also a neat amenity kit stocked with Cowshed toiletries (extra kits are also in the lavatories).
Agents can now book Polaris on the SFO to Hong Kong route, and those who prefer to redeem miles for the experience need only spend 70,000 MileagePlus miles in each direction for the privilege.