Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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United Airlines began rolling out its Polaris product in late 2016 when it outfitted business class cabins with new food and amenities and opened its first Polaris Lounge in Chicago.
Since then, United has had repeated delays in expanding its new flagship product, but most aircraft are finally equipped with the new seats. Let’s dive in and discuss everything you need to know about this new product.
The New Polaris Experience
United’s business class product has not had a good reputation for quite a while, so the upgrade to the new Polaris product is a much-needed improvement. Similarly, the Polaris Lounges are a significant upgrade to the current United Clubs.
Since you’re going to be spending so much time in your seat, that’s exactly where we’ll start. United has revamped its business class seat with the help of Zodiac, and it has received great reviews.
The seat width is a comfortable 23 inches and the pitch is 75 to 78 inches. Bulkhead seats in rows 1 and 9 have a few more inches of space. Each seat is fitted with spacious footwells that allow easy movement of your feet. Similar to the increased pitch, bulkhead footwells also provide more space for your feet.
Every seat has direct aisle access and can be positioned into a lie-flat bed. Seats in odd-numbered rows will provide the most privacy since the window seats are truly next to the window, and the seats in the middle section are also set back from the aisle.
Odd-numbered middle seats are best if you are traveling with a partner since the seats are parallel and right next to each other. However, if you are traveling alone in one of these seats, you can still put up a privacy divider. This divider can even be up during takeoff and landing.
The seats in even-numbered rows face the aisle and do not have quite as much privacy. While the seats are the same, be aware of this when booking your business class seat on United.
Above the 16-inch inflight entertainment system, you’ll find a bar to help you stand up from your seat without rocking the person in front of you. You and your fellow passengers will appreciate not being disturbed while sleeping on long-haul flights.
United has really stepped up its game when it comes to the new bedding it provides business class passengers in the new Polaris seat. It has added a comfortable mattress pad and cozy blankets.
The popular blue gel pillow is now provided to every Polaris passenger rather than stocked in limited quantities on request.
If you plan on sleeping, make sure you request a mattress pad at the beginning of your flight as United does not carry enough for every seat. Slippers are also available on request on every Polaris flight.
On flights over 12 hours, you can request a pair of pajamas.
United’s new Polaris amenity kit comes in a small Away luggage case, which is really cute. The amenity kit includes lip balm, hand cream, eye shades, socks, a pen, and more.
Food and Wine
While many international carriers have long provided fantastic meals in business and first class, United has lagged behind. When you book a business class seat on Singapore Airlines, for example, you will have an awesome meal that you can reserve before your flight to ensure you get exactly what you want.
United might not be on that level yet, but the new Polaris inflight dining options are a big improvement. The menus were developed with the help of The Trotter Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization.
United continues to change the Polaris catering offering so that a number of items from the original Polaris launch are now only available on request:
- Pre-departure beverages – you can still request a specific drink though you will only be proactively offered sparkling wine, orange juice, and water.
- Bloody Marys and Mimosas on daytime flights – now on request
- Wine flights on evening flights – now on request
- Hot mid-flight snacks – now on request
- Pre-arrival dessert (cookie) replaces pre-departure chocolate
Further cuts previously announced include:
- Entrees will no longer be plated onboard — now they will be plated in advance of the flight and served as is
- Flight attendant staffing will be reduced on some aircraft – cost-cutting
As we mentioned earlier, the Polaris inflight entertainment system comes with a 16-inch touchscreen monitor. A simple remote is also provided so you don’t have to get up to make your selection. In the side console, you will find a pair of headphones to use throughout the flight.
United provides plenty of tv shows and movies to keep you entertained when you’re not sleeping on long flights.
Wi-Fi is also offered on these flights for those who would like to stay connected with the world. United does not use Gogo Inflight Internet, so you won’t be able to use your complimentary Gogo passes provided by The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
United made a huge upgrade with the introduction of the Polaris Lounge. There is ample seating including cubicles, restaurant-style benches paired with tables and chairs, 2-top tables, the usual lounge chairs, and the bar.
The bar provides a number of drink options including premium wine, spirits, and champagne while the buffet provides both hot and cold food for you to enjoy.
If you’d prefer table service, you can order from a menu and your food and drink will be brought to your table.
What Airports Have the Polaris Lounge?
Polaris Lounges are open in:
- Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
- Newark Liberty International (EWR)
- George Bush Intercontinental-Houston (IAH)
- Los Angeles International (LAX)
- San Francisco International (SFO)
- Washington Dulles (IAD)
Like its inflight product, United has had delays rolling out new lounges as well.
Upcoming Polaris Lounge openings:
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- London Heathrow (LHR)
- Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Other than the Los Angeles opening, no other Polaris Lounge opening dates have been made public.
Lounge Access Policies
Access to the Polaris Lounge is very limited. Passengers in Polaris first or business class must depart from the airport the same day to have access to the Lounge. If connecting, these passengers can visit upon arrival or before departure.
Passengers on a Star Alliance partner booked in business or first class on an international long-haul flight can also access the Polaris Lounge, but only if they are departing from that airport. These passengers do not receive access if they are arriving on an international long-haul flight.
If United markets a flight as “United Business” rather than Polaris, you will not have access even if you’re on an international flight. Domestic business class and first class passengers (including to and from Hawaii) won’t have access either, even if the flight is marketed as a p.s. (premium service) flight.
An important point to remember is that United Club memberships do not gain you access to the Polaris Lounge.
What Routes Have the New Polaris Product?
The new Polaris product is on the vast majority of United widebody aircraft, including the Boeing 777-300s, 777-200, 767-300, 787-8, and 787-9 aircraft. The new Boeing 787-10 and the Airbus A350 will be delivered with the new product as well.
The 787-10 will also fly on domestic premium transcontinental routes from Newark to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
When looking to book Polaris seats, make sure to verify your route and flight will have the new seat, in addition to the Polaris service offered aircraft new and old. Within the next year, all aircraft should be fully retrofitted.
How To Earn Miles to Book Polaris
As a Star Alliance member, there are many ways to book United flights with miles, which means we have several options for earning miles through credit card partners.
Let’s start with earning United miles. You have a few credit card options that will allow you to earn United miles directly.
Chase United Cards
Marriott Bonvoy Cards
Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards (Personal)
Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
If you’re a business owner, see our list of the best Chase business credit cards.
American Express Membership Rewards Cards
Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 125k (or 150k) points with the Amex Platinum. The current public offer is 80,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 90,000 points with the Amex Gold card. The current public offer is 60,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
If you’re a business owner, see our list of the best Amex business credit cards.
How To Redeem Miles for Polaris
Fortunately, you have lots of ways to book an award flight with this new product if one of the routes works for you. Here are a few of the best ways to redeem miles for Polaris flights.
The easiest way to book this award is often by redeeming United miles. However, you might get a better deal booking with Air Canada Aeroplan or Asiana Club depending on the route and the points you have.
Here’s a breakdown of some the one-way award prices on a few routes:
|Route||United MileagePlus||Air Canada Aeroplan||Asiana Club|
|San Francisco||Hong Kong||70,000 miles||82,500 miles||60,000 miles|
|Newark||Tel Aviv||70,000 miles||75,000 miles||67,500 miles|
|San Francisco||Tokyo||65,000 miles||75,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|San Francisco||Taipei||70,000 miles||75,000 miles||60,000 miles|
United has been long overdue for an upgrade to its premium product. As it slowly retires its international first class product and introduces the new Polaris product, more people will likely become interested in flying with them.
With several ways to earn points and book award flights, you can take numerous approaches to try out United Polaris.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
Featured Image Credit: United
Frequently Asked Questions
Polaris is United’s flagship premium inflight product. It replaced the old business and first class products that United previously used on many international routes.
The product includes a completely new seat, better amenities, and better food and beverage options. Additionally, the inflight entertainment screen and choices have been greatly improved.
You can earn United miles directly with one of Chase’s co-branded credit cards.
You can also earn Ultimate Rewards to transfer to United, Membership Rewards to transfer to Aeroplan. Each of these programs can book Polaris flights on United.
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About Spencer Howard
Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience.
Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class!
Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal). He runs Straight to the Points, an award-seat alert platform.
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