Edited by: James Larounis
& Keri Stooksbury
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United Airlines is joining the fray of airlines offering narrow-body service on long-haul flights.
And, even better, the giant U.S. carrier confirmed in January 2022 that its yet-to-be-delivered Airbus A321XLR jets will feature a modified version of its Polaris (business class) cabin and seat.
“We are looking at a completely new product that’ll be on the aircraft,” said Patrick Quayle, Senior Vice President of International Network and Alliances at United, as told to Executive Traveller.
The first batch of the jets has a scheduled delivery date of sometime in 2024, with 2025 set to be the year that sees the bulk of the deliveries. The delivery schedule means United will be slightly behind its peer American Airlines, which is set to debut its version of the Airbus A321XLR in 2023.
The Airbus A321XLR will be United’s first narrow-body aircraft to feature its Polaris business class product.
The Polaris that will be found on these long-range narrow-body jets will be based on the product that flyers have come to know on the majority of United’s existing wide-body fleet, though there will be some modifications.
“We have taken concepts from that original Polaris seat, what works and what our passengers like, and we’ve tried to apply that to a narrow-body [airplane],” explains Quayle.
As you’d expect, these Polaris seats will recline to a fully flat position, while the other 2 cabins — premium economy and economy — will have standard reclining seats.
In total, the aircraft should be able to accommodate around 180 passengers.
Hot Tip: Learn all there is to know about United’s Polaris product — including the amenities, routes, lounges, and more — in our complete guide.
The new Polaris cabin is expected to offer 28 business class seats in a quite heavy premium configuration. Each seat will be in a herringbone configuration at a 49-degree angle, where your back is against the window and your feet extend out towards the aisle. This is a similar configuration to how JetBlue has arranged its A321 Mint aircraft serving London (LHR), Paris (CDG), and Amsterdam (AMS).
Each seat will also feature a door by the feet for privacy, and each seat will extend into a fully lie-flat bed at a length of up to 78 inches.
There will be parts of each seat that use up the space of the seat next to it, therefore saving space and allowing United to add more seats to this pretty dense business class configuration. That said, with more business class seats comes additional opportunities to upgrade.Hot Tip:
More business class seats don’t necessarily mean more award seats. While this plane will be configured with quite a few business class seats based on the size of the aircraft, that doesn’t mean that many of these seats will be released for lower-level mileage redemption ability.
The number of airlines operating single-aisle jets across the Atlantic is increasing steadily because it allows carriers to make a profit even on routes with less demand. TAP Air Portugal, Air Transat, Aer Lingus, and JetBlue also offer A321XLR flights from North America to Europe. Air Transat also plans to use the aircraft for flights from Canada to the Caribbean and Central and South America.
United’s single-aisle aircraft and its unique Polaris product will be deployed predominantly on routes across North Atlantic, though Latin American markets are also in the plan.
“You will see something like New York to Bogotá, but equally they could go New York to Edinburgh, New York to Glasgow or places like that,” suggested Quayle.
If and when the A321XLR is introduced on the Scottish routes, United’s new Polaris will certainly be the best way for premium travelers to hop across the Atlantic to Scotland.
As the airline and travel industries continue to battle pandemic-induced headwinds, we can reasonably expect to see even more airlines swapping out larger, more expensive, and less efficient jets for single-aisle jets like A321XLRs or the Boeing 737 MAX.
United’s confirmation of a fully lie-flat Polaris seat on its forthcoming single-aisle long-range jets is something the airline’s loyalists should be excited about.
Some may still prefer the comfort and larger size of wide-body, twin-aisle jets for longer flights, but one thing’s for certain: we’ll be sure to try this new product on for size when it takes to the skies in 2024.
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